Like most new arrivals in McMurdo Station, I have a problem. I just finished a very comforting cup of hot chocolate served up in a cute little paper cup with fold out handles. It was just what I needed after tromping around outside in the biting cold wind. So what's the problem you ask? he problem is, in which recycling bin do I put my cup? Do I put it into the one labeled FOOD WASTE, or BURNABLES, or does it go into DEBRIS?
Here in Antarctica, there is no such thing as trash. There are no garbage dumps or trash cans or garbage haulers. The U.S. Antarctic program ships over 300 containers of waste back to the United States every year. Over 60% of that material is recycled. That's a better average than any city in the United States. Every bit of waste generated here is sorted and put into the proper bin so it can be recycled. Cans and bottles are easy, but plastic items can be confusing. Does a plastic food wrapper go in with plastic bottles or is that considered a burnable item? There are bins for construction debris, computer parts and batteries. At the end of every meal in the dining room, all McMurdo residents even sort out the paper napkins from the food scraps.
So, back to my hot chocolate cup. Mixed paper? No, that bin states no food residue. Should it go into food scraps? But then I look at the label for burnables and read the part that says 'paper contaminated with food'. That sounds like the right place for my paper cup coated with hot chocolate residue. I deposit my cup and move on to my next task now that this blog is finished.