Was green before it was cool, but now feel a fool

January 13, 2009

(Copyright 2009)

I’ve always believed in recycling – if it’s not too difficult.

When recycling was first offered in my area, many, many years ago, they gave us three bins and you were supposed to sort the paper, plastic, and bottles. That was a chore, but I did it for the most part.

I would sometimes have problems with others in the household complying with the sort on the inside, you know: mixing recycle with garbage.

I didn’t like having to put all those open bins outside because they were susceptible to being strewn about by whatever forces would do so – wind, dogs, kids, whatever. And the bins weren’t big enough.

Then they came along with one big plastic can for recycling and you could put everything in there. I liked that, recycling made easy.

I probably didn’t bother to read all the directions as to what was recyclable and what was not. I do think that when we lived in a city just south of where we live now their literature said they didn’t want glass in with the recycling. But when we called the garbage service and asked what were we  supposed to do with the glass, they said: just put it in the recycle bin. So I did.

Then we moved to where we are now. I have been assiduous about sorting recycle and garbage. Well, a lot of our wet garbage goes into the garbage disposal at the sink. But we do have some other garbage. Actually, though, we usually have less than a sack full. But the tall recycle plastic can is usually full to the max – much of it newspapers, but a whole lot of various  packaging (mostly for food), as well.

Within the past year or so we’ve been notified that we are no longer supposed to throw old batteries (I’m talking flashlight size and smaller – I wouldn’t be trying to ditch a car battery) into the garbage or recycle. They expect us to haul them (one or two at a time?) ourselves to the solid waste place and pay a fee.  Same goes with florescent tubes. I don’t know what people are doing about that. I expect many are just chucking them in the trash anyway. Don’t have any florescent tubes around, but I do have several small dead batteries.

I have always noticed while driving through the neighborhood that most folks around here seem to pay little attention to recycling. They throw cardboard waste and other recyclable stuff into their garbage cans and probably, for all I know, throw garbage into the recycle cans. I know this because their cans are often overflowing. But everything seems to get picked up.

Well, so I thought, until this past week. As usual, my recycle can was full – but not as usual, a little too full. That gave the driver a red flag warning to peek in. He apparently found something that did not belong. And instead of dumping my can, he left me a yellow tag. But even though there was a space marked for telling me what the offending stuff was, he left that out. He just marked “contamination found”.  Later, in a phone call to the city garbage department we concluded it was probably a picture frame.

And here are a few more things that my yellow tag notes that would be verboten: plastic bags (I know, they foul up the recycling machinery. But what are you supposed to do with them? They don’t really want them in the landfill either because, as I understand it, they don’t bio degrade. Years ago when they made paper grocery bags strong enough, we used them, but sometime about 30 years ago, they began putting out thin sacks that give way at the bottom — I know waste more paper by double bagging), Styrofoam (similar problem, really not good for landfill), waxed cardboard (that perplexes me), and the most mystifying of all – shredded paper. They will take shredded paper from businesses, not from homes.

Two things I have concluded in all of this. First, we are far too wasteful a society with all the packaging we use. Second of all, recycling is a good idea, but it will work better if it is made easier.

I’m only willing to spend so much time sorting out my garbage, and after this week I have reduced my time allotment for it all. I won’t have my garbage lids open ever again. I just hope the driver doesn’t peek inside.