Tuesday, October 20, 2009

It's not easy being green

What's this?It's my recycling station, nestled in the laundry between the pantry and the washing machine. It's a nifty container with three plastic bins each under a lid with a step-on pedal for hands-free operations. With it, you can easily and cleanly sort and store recyclable materials.

It's also one of the more superfluous things in my house. Let me explain.

Back before I bought this, I had a wicker hamper lined with a plastic bag. It wasn't very big, and since it was weeks between the curbside recycling pickups, it would overflow. In order to keep down the mess, I would sort the contents by type (aluminum, steel, paper, plastic 1, plastic 2) into paper bags and haul them to the recycling station down near the park. This was what my husband referred to as "driving the garbage around town". I had been doing this for years ever since we lived in an apartment complex without recycling pickup. Things got easier when the city put a satellite recycling dropoff in my end of town, but I still had too much recycling to let it lie around the place until the curbside pickup.

So, if I was going to sort it and dump it, I thought it would be easier to add pre-sorting into the mix and got my neat stainless triple sorter. So, cans went in one bin, plastic into another and steel/glass in the third. Paper went into a basket near it in the laundry. On recycling day, I picked up the bins out of the recycling station, put them in the station wagon and used the nifty handles to carry them from the car to the humongous labeled skips where I deposited each kind of material. Then the bins went back into the car and away I went. Easy-peasy, with the sorting done ahead of time.

Then the city got all eco-conscious and decided that we would have biweekly recycling pickup. They also cancelled our scheduled monthly brush and grass clippings pickup, but that's another gripe. So, now every other Friday the big green truck comes around to pick up our bagged recyclables. All they ask is that we put the stuff in blue plastic bags or bins so they can discern it from just plain trash. You can even mix all the types of materials in a single bag. It gets sorted and screened at the dumping point. This is good, except the bins in my recycling station are black, and would not be recognized for what they were, so I have to put the contents in a blue plastic bag (Isn't that inherently wasteful? And do you know how hard it is to find blue plastic garbage bags? But I digress.)

Now, I take each bin, dump it in one of the small blue plastic bags I found and set it on the curb. The bags are so small I usually have three - aluminum, plastic and paper. I don't collect up much steel so I save it for months to make a load, and the glass can't be left at the curb - I still have to take it into the satellite dropoff. If I could buy really large blue bags I could put all the contents into one of them and comingle the contents - the city doesn't care.

So all my pre-sorting work is out the window. I could use my wicker hamper again if it hadn't fallen apart. The only thing positive about all this sorting and separate bagging is that I can imagine the city workers pointing at my house and saying "The people who live here have the tidiest recycling in town!"


momtofatdogs said...

Too bad you just can't co-mingle it all in a bin and set it on the curb!

You are the minority when it comes to being as proactive as you are in your recycling endeavors.

But, maybe they want it that way to keep down on contamination. You would't want to know what people put in recycling bins......diapers NOT being the worst.

Sam in Middle TN

Morah said...

YOu and Kermit....I can still hear the song in my head. Your story had me chuckling and shaking my head at the same time!

Tanya said...

I have pondered buying one of those things too but I think they'd fill up too quickly to be of any real use. My basket gets filled and then lugged to the car and taken to ths supermarket recycling center or down the block monthly to the huge bins they set out. They don't want them sorted either...