After seeing a sixty-foot refrigerated truck full of yellow bananas being unloaded onto the loading dock at the transfer station this summer, I couldn’t get the Japanese word “mottainai” out of my mind. “Mottainai” means “what a waste” and conveys a sense that we should not throw away useful things. In David Kestenbaum’s NPR story “Mottainai Grandma Reminds Japan, ‘Don’t Waste’,” Yuko Kawanishi explained that Mottainai is an old Buddhist word that relates to ‘the Shinto idea that objects have souls.’
While they were in transit, the temperature of the bananas rose, causing them to soften. I thought, “Perfect for banana bread!” wanting to contact everyone I know to pick up a 40-pound box of soft yellow bananas. I felt helpless when I learned that they were not only going to waste, they would not be composted. There was not enough staff to separate the cardboard, plastic, and bananas.