Jan 4, 2010

Recycling is dangerous business

I had accidentally collected a massive backup of recyclable material in the back porch.

I don't have a fancy truck that picks up my junk. I have papers and the plastic, tin and beer bottles - mostly brown, but an occasional green one breaks up the color scheme collecting in my porch. I had been taking the wagon full of weekly papers to the local school. I could do that on foot, with the before mentioned wagon, and they have a charity that somehow turns newspapers and magazines into cold hard cash. Not for me, for the school. I cannot, for the life of me, fathom how that works - but it was an easy place for me to unload those piles of paper that accumulates in the compound. They don't take cardboard, which kind of pisses me off. How can you take a glossy Ikea catalog and not corrugated cardboard?

Right now, we've got that crunchy sounding snow... and I really don't feel like walking outside in -2ºF, before the windchill factor, to dump some old newsprint.

The surrounding cities and neighborhoods all have superior recycling campaigns that accept plastic, glass, cardboard, newsprint and all the other things that I'd like to recycle. They probably pay more for the privilege to be a better citizen than I am. My city had implemented a 'Blue Bag' program which was - go to the store, buy some ridiculously overpriced flimsy plastic blue tinted bags, throw your recyclables away in them (although there was never a list, nor was what was considered recyclable ever made clear. It certainly wasn't on the bag or the box that had all the new bags in it...), then you tossed that full flimsy bag in with the normal trash. Somewhere in the process, the magic garbage fairy sorted my junk and turned it back into useful raw material that was shipped to China and then resold to me through Costco or Wal Mart. Now, I may have torn 50 of 100 bags I owned, simply by placing a can into the bag. Not a smashed can, mind you. Just a regular old can. Noting that the bag could get a paper cut, I was just a tad dubious of the success rate of the blue bag program. I was told, "don't think about it. Just imagine that it works, and that you're helping out. Thataboy." That never passed my sniff test.

Turns out, my suspicions were correct, and the blue bag program was nothing more than a cousins and cronies project. So it was finally dropped in favor of a blue bin city wide recycling project that required receptacles for individual houses. The idea was that every two weeks, three nice young men would take your beer cans away to take them back to the Old Style brewery to refill them - something like that. The city was painfully slow to roll out the program, and now with only 40% of the neighborhoods with their blue containers, the other 60% simply toss their empties in the regular trash.

The band-aid on the gangrene limb of the 'green city' are occasional drop off dumpsters in the parks. These dumpsters are for the enviorn-conscious people who don't have bins, but feel extremely bad about tossing pure aluminum into a landfill. This is what I have been doing. I fill up my car with all the packaging, wrapping paper, cardboard boxes they put my beer in, annoying little plastic tips they put on socks to keep them hanging nicely on the Target rack, and empty beer bottles. I take that to the local park, which isn't all that far away - globally, I guess. Then I park next to a blue dumpster that has about six openings on the top with flimsy plastic that can't stop a strong breeze, let alone the rain. I shovel pile after pile of mixed used and broken raw material into the already overflowing dumpster. It is always overflowing.

Although it was -2º F yesterday, I decided that getting all the papers and cans out of the back porch would be a good idea. I took load after load into the vehicle. And after 10 trips, finally exited the car port. Somehow I knew that there was no way that dumpster would even be accessible. I knew that all day. Since the minute I started this adventure. But I still trucked on.

Of course, it wasn't just over flowing - there were massive piles of garbage surrounding the dumpster like a 5 year old's couch fort.

Time to find another option. I wasn't about to take this crap out and back into my porch.

I drove around aimlessly. Slowly. Deeper and deeper into other neighborhoods. I was acting out some high school production of Joseph Conrad's Hearts of Darkness. There was a recycling area that I knew about, but if the hippie granola heads who live there saw me unloading without sorting my #1 plastic from my #4 plastic - well, I just didn't want to be hassled. Then I remembered another park nearby. Maybe, just maybe, they'd have another blue dumpster? Worth reconnoitering I reckoned. I pulled up. They had a couple of green bins near the swing sets. What the hell is a green bin? Is that for recycled goods? Or is it for something else? Damn it.

I drove on. Then I noticed that this neighborhood had blue bins. Glorious. I crept along, ready to make my move, and saw two next to each other in an alley not far from the park.

Now, in a reverse cat burglar maneuver I'd have to dump my goods and split. A dump and run, if you will. [Don't look that up.] My contraband was toxic waste that I was about to unload into the municipal water supply. My thoughts went to either the poor old woman who would be disappointed that her empty bin had been filled by some kind of reverse pirate - a rouge recycler! Or, worse, the Unemployed Union Pipe Fitter who sees me dumping my junk in his bin and is so confused by this, he decides he has to take a tire iron to my windshield.

I pulled up, checked bin one. Cardboard diaper box. 1/4 full. The other one completely empty. Maybe it had just emptied, or maybe it had never been used. I filled the empty one with my cargo. Had ample remainders, and filled the other one. Still had some left. Time to move on.

As I rolled out, I wondered what those people would be thinking when they discovered my deposit? Would they be so irritated that they'd dump the contents onto the ground, shake their fists and curse the sky? Would they notice at all? Yes, there's a violation of their space, but is it really? And it's not like I put a dead skunk in their bins, or a Christmas tree. I only put empty plastic packaging in there. Why would anyone give a rip after about half a minute?

I found one more blue bin before moving back to the homestead. It was empty too, at the end of a driveway. I wondered if that guy might wonder why the truck had left stuff in his bin. Maybe he'd think it was like the mail. Leave some cans, get a shoe box. Or some elaborate story where the truck was full, but if they pulled out this beer box with a shoe box wedged in it, they could take all his stuff. We'll come back for the rest in two weeks, pal. I don't know, but it was the story I was coming up with. Time to go home. I was obviously done with this journey up the river.

As I pulled into the garage, I found about two more containers of stuff that I should have taken with me. I hate that.

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