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Voyageur's Best Generally Speaking of 2005

Trumpeter Swans

Forget pollution, its recycling that's killin' me
A dreadful chore
by Nickole Caspersen  |  June 28, 2005

My family recycles. Not because we believe that by recycling, we somehow become morally superior to those who don’t. Trust me, that’s not it. We recycle because by doing so, the amount of actual garbage we have to deal with is drastically reduced. Perhaps it would be better if we were crazy about recycling. If it wasn’t our most dreaded chore, after washing dishes, it might get done more often, which would make life easier for all of those involved.

All of our recyclables go in a paper bag that stands next to the garbage can. There isn’t really room for more than one bag, so glass, plastic, aluminum and tin all go in together. This is all fine and dandy until the bag gets full. Like I said before, there really isn’t a lot of room for another bag, so when it becomes impossible to balance just one more flattened milk jug on the top, the bottles and cans start congregating at the end of the counter by the bag. When this starts happening, it is time to make a trip to the recycling shed.

But first, everything has to be separated. My step-mom, Cathy, is the only one brave enough for that task. Everyone else is too grossed out by the “recycling juice.” That is my family’s name for the funny smelling liquid that tends to materialize in recycling bins. No matter how well you rinse those darn containers, it is never quite good enough. After the plastic, glass, tin and aluminum have been transferred to individual plastic bags, somebody is delegated to bring it in. Often times it is me, which makes sense. I drive past the recycling sheds two times a day everyday. The only problem with me taking in the recycling, is I never remember to do it. I’m such a creature of habit, I don’t ever deviate enough from my routine to grab it on my way out. Meanwhile, the recycling juice is ripening and another paper bag is half full.

Eventually I remember, usually after somebody puts the bags right in front of the door, and the morning finds me at the little brown sheds just out side of Cromwell. Recycling really isn’t that bad until I get to… the mixed bag. The dreaded mixed bag is full of items that wouldn’t fit in the bags with their own kind, and get thrown in one bag together. That means I have to actually reach into the slimy bag and grab each recycling juice covered item one by one. Gross! The only thing fun about the mixed bag is watching somebody else empty it.

My last recycling trip went above and beyond the call of duty. In addition to the house hold recycling I had to bring in a huge box full of empty windshield washer fluid bottles, which doesn’t sound all that bad. The problem is I can’t put a box full of empty plastic containers in the box of the truck and expect them to still be there by the time I get to town. So, I crammed the monster into the cab and was on my way. Who needs to see out of the passenger side window anyway?

I got to the recycling center and proceed to unload. With hands smelling of recycling juice, courtesy of the mixed bag, I slid the big box off the seat. I had taken about two steps when a small plinking sound caught my attention. I looked down at the plastic cap rolling away from me just in time to see the bottom of the box burst open. Now I’m standing in the rain with a pile of bottles in the parking lot and caps rolling in all directions. Until then I didn’t know there were people who actually obeyed the recycling rule of removing the caps. Some time later I had everything picked up and was on my way to being late for work.

I’m always a little late when I have to bring in the recycling. Waiting until after work is not an option. There is no way I’m letting that stuff ferment in my truck all day. But, recycling juice and soggy boxes aside, recycling isn’t really all that bad. I can always take solace in the fact that I am helping the environment. Even better than that is knowing I’m not alone, everybody gets a turn.

This article first appeared in the June 28,2005 issue of the Voyageur Press.