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11:22 a.m. - September 03, 2005
Recycle This!
As I was finishing up my task of de-pooping the house this morning (emptying out the diaper genie and cleaning out the litter box), I got to thinking about trash and recycling. Especially since our trash tends to me a biohazard area, with two cats, a 3 ½ year old still wearing pull-ups at night, and an almost 3 month old doing what three month olds do best, trash is a constant around here.

(That’s an encouraging start – talk about poop in the first sentence. Geez, it’s as if you DON’T want any readers.)

This city has some interesting trash laws. The last town I lived in had a set fee that everyone paid for trash and recycling, and you could put as much trash as you wanted out on your curb. They would take anything but yard waste (and you could disguise that easily). When we moved, our entire driveway was full of cardboard boxes and trash sacks, and it all magically disappeared. The trash fairies had come and taken it all away! ( I’m sure they were smiling and singing show tunes as they wrangled all that crud into the back of their truck.)

Here, there is no fee for basic trash service or curbside recycling. But ‘basic’ means one container of trash, and it can be no bigger than 33 gallons. After that, you need to buy some orange stickers to put on any other bags or barrels, but those could be no bigger than 33 gallons. If you have more than one container out there, and don’t have orange stickers, they won’t pick them up. They’re not kidding either.

When we moved, we got two recycling bins as well as instructions from the trash department of the city on what was acceptable and not acceptable in trash and in recycling, and of course it was written for maximum obfuscation. It seems no matter what branch or level of government you are dealing with, there does not seem to be any law or order or statue that isn’t occluded in gobbledygook.

Liz, being a good wife, thought she would help by buying our first trash container at the new house. (We left our old huge containers back at the old house, as who really wants to haul old trash containers to the new house?) When I looked, I saw it was a 40 gallon container. Oops. That, of course, is not acceptable. The trash will not be picked up; the neighbors will laugh; we will be ostracized and forced into exile. Not good, since we just moved. So I trudged out to the Home Depot (slogan: “Yeah, you hate this store, but what else you gonna do, eh?”) and got two 33 gallon containers. We were lamenting on what to do with the contraband trash container – I suggested we conduct science experiments in it for fun and profit – but Niece Nurse said she’d take it off our hands and gave us a smaller can that we could use for a tertiary trash container.

(Side note: tertiary, occluded, obfuscation – yes there will be a vocab quiz tomorrow – be sure to study!)

However, what I could understand of this lovely law was that someone who can pile four or five sacks into a 33-gallon container (and by the power of scrunching, you can if you’re lucky) is treated the same as someone who puts one lone bag out there on the side of the road on trash day. My neighbor is a single woman who lives very modestly, she just has one bag for pickup. On our lucky weeks, we can get by with one can full of trash, but that’s has at least five bags in it. Somehow, it doesn’t seem fair, but that’s government for you. They try to make the least sense possible, and it shows.

The fifty-cent charge per extra bag or container should do one thing. It should push people to recycle more. Recycling is free, and there are some simple (and I mean simple rules to follow):

• Newspapers should be put into paper or plastic bags.
• Plastic bottles (#1 and #2) should be rinsed out.
• Aluminum cans should be rinsed out.
• Tin cans should have the labels taken off and rinsed out.
• Glass containers should be rinsed out.
• Magazines and cardboard boxes should be taken to the recycling center.

That’s it. You don’t have to separate anything. You can dump everything into one bin. How easy is that?

Not easy enough, I guess.

I drive around town and see people’s trash day leavings, and I think only 1/3 to 2/5 ever sets out a recycling bin, but they sure seem to have plenty of trash and containers out there.

Just think about how much room 2-liter bottles take up, or an empty laundry soap container, or how many cans or glass bottles you go through in a week. You can put that in a recycling bin, for free, or you can put it in the trash and risk a charge. What does that say about the choices people want to make?

A new local columnist wrote about moving to Crawfordsville, and made light of the trash regulations. And yes, they are ripe for writing an inane column or essay (OK, I’m not technically STEALING the idea, so please don’t turn me into the plagiarism police OK?). But she ended it with a statement that she wasn’t going to recycle, because there were even more rules.

That got my blood-a-boilin’. As you know, I’m never one to hold back an opinion (I can dance around an opinion with a little soft shoe, but I won’t hold back) so I wrote a letter to the editor lambasting the callous way the columnist blew off recycling, whether it was for comic effect or not, recycling was still important for many reasons, and someone in that position should encourage recycling for the greater good.

Yeah, I got all B-movie senatorial candidate – esque in that letter. In my idealistic, rosy-cheeked world that would inspire everyone to recycle and we’d never have to cut down a tree for paper or make a plastic Coke bottle again.


It does make me sad that not that many people recycle when it’s so flippin’ easy, at least here. When I drove to Alaska, I really got in touch with the Earth and the environment, and while I was a rather Green person before, that galvanized me into doing as much as I can (within reason) to converse our national resources and treasures. (I’m not going to climb giant sequoias or go burn down things, but I will vote for environmental friendly candidates!) and I think recycling is an easy way to do that.

Of course, some of my friends call me a tree hugger, especially when I talk about the ANWAR, or the building of logging roads in National Forests. But some trees aren’t that huggable, you know. They have moss and goop all over them and you’d ruin a shirt.

Newspapers and plastics make the greatest impact, though tin and aluminum are also important as well, because I don’t know when we will run out of that stuff in the ground. I haven’t seen any sci-fi stories that show the world as a chaotic wasteland because we’re out of bauxite, but you never know!

So if you can recycle, please do so. Newspapers, plastics, cans and bottles, just get into the habit of putting it in the little recycling bin. If your community makes it hard to recycle, then lobby or petition for it to be made easier and more cost efficient.

Otherwise, in 30 to 50 years, when the world is without aluminum cans, how will we drink our beer when we’re at the Indy 500?


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