Log Lunch with Eve Schaub: Recycling Lies and Plastic Problems: What I Learned from a Year of No Garbage

On Friday, April 26, the community gathered for another excellent Log Lunch meal and speaker. On this day, the student cooks prepared a delicious meal of a chickpea coconut lemon curry, samosas, naan, garlic-chive chutney, a yogurt sauce, a crisp apple, snap pea, cucumber salad with mint, and vanilla chai bars with cardamom-orange jam for dessert. The community also came to hear Eve Schaub, humorist and published author of multiple books including Year of No Garbage: Recycling Lies, Plastic Problems, and One Woman’s Trashy Journey to Zero Waste (2023), speak about her experiences in attempting to live a zero-waste lifestyle for an entire year. 

Eve started her talk about the year of zero waste that she tried by highlighting that it wasn’t entirely new. She had previously experimented with years of no sugar, among other attempts to make radical changes to her family’s lifestyle, and then wrote books about the experience. The year of no waste, Eve affirmed, was the most difficult of all of the challenges that her and her family have attempted. Inspired by zero and low-waste influencers, Eve chose 2020 to be the year that her family would attempt to produce no waste for 365 days. 

How hard could it be? Explaining that the fist chapter of her book is titled “This Sucks and Everyone Hates Me,” Eve found the beginning of the zero-waste project to be difficult, as her family had to develop a sorting system to allow for different materials to be reused. In this process, she explained that her family created a “confusing” pile of items with materials which weren’t exactly clear. In every case, these were materials made of plastic which Eve’s family couldn’t even believe were plastic, and thus had issues trying to repurpose them. In her eyes, plastic became the “Darth Vader of our year of no waste,” as it required more attention than other materials, but was also more difficult to recycle. The difficulty of finding ways to recycle her plastic led Eve to become a detective with one goal: can we recycle all of these plastics?

In further research, Eve found that a staggering 5% of total plastics ever find new life in the form of recycling, with plastic usually ending up in landfills and dumps, where it has the potential to spread microplastics into the environment. Although the reality of plastics in our world can be quite bleak, Eve explains, being aware of the reality is the first step towards reducing waste at the point of production rather than consumption and post-consumption.