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Archive for Sunday, April 15, 2001

Yesterday’s trash is today’s recyclables

April 15, 2001

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Don't get me wrong.

I think recycling is terrific, noble even. Anything that'll help sustain life on Earth for a few more millenniums is OK by me.

But for some of us who didn't learn about separating our cans from our milk cartons in elementary school or while watching "Sesame Street," recycling is not like falling off a log.

For the better part of the last 60-some years I've called boxes filled with empty cans, bottles, magazines, plastic bags and old newspapers trash.

Trash was an issue that could get you elected to public office. Trash was something we used to burn in 55-gallon drums in our back yards.

Youngsters didn't get their allowances when they forgot to "take out the trash."

Today's trash is called recycling. You don't toss recycling in a beat-up metal garbage can for the trash man. You sort it by category.

We file our recycling in a back room. After we've rinsed and crushed our aluminum cans they're placed in a plastic bag that hangs on a door knob on top of the bag that holds our discarded plastic bags. Stacks of newspapers are on a wire rack, ready for bundling. Magazines are a separate category and are bagged and stacked under the rack of newspapers.

All of the non-aluminum cans, freshly washed bottles and jars along with flattened and folded cereal boxes and other "fiberboard containers" are stored in a big, blue plastic bin. Junk mail has its own container. During holidays there's a separate area for cardboard.

There was a period in my life when a collection like this would be considered evidence to a questionable lifestyle. You just didn't show your trash to strangers, and you dumped it in the dark of night.

I was dragged into recycling about nine years ago. I ignored the red flag when I saw my wife-to-be washing out a pizza box. She explained that cardboard should be clean before it is recycled.

Little did I know.

During my ongoing training I've asked lots of questions.

If we're really getting into this recycling thing, why aren't plastic forks or those big, clear plastic salad bar containers, cottage cheese or yogurt cartons, Styrofoam or vitamin bottles recycled?

How much water are we using to wash out empty syrup and salsa bottles? How much is it costing us to haul this stuff across town to the recycling center at Wal-Mart?

Is time a factor here?

The reply is a withering glance from recycling's poster child.

So, I'll just work around it.

I'll drink more water and fewer cans of pop. I'll lay off the canned goods, buy more foods in bulk, take cloth carryout bags to the grocery store or re-use my plastic bags, start squeezing my own fruit juice and ask that my Christmas presents come unwrapped.

On second thought, I guess the recycling run doesn't really take all that long.

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