Bearing in mind that REDUCING the amount of packaging we purchase is critical, and that RE-USING what we can is in everyone’s best interest, I have found that there is STILL stuff that can and should be recycled. Here’s the story of how Olga and I stopped trusting our trash company and started doing our own recycling.
My friend Olga and I live in suburbia, in different communities. Both of our towns contract with a private refuse service rather than having their own municipal waste service. And here is where the adventure begins!
Olga and I both had large residential dumpsters for our refuse. We were told by the disposal company that there was no need to sort our trash; their facility had a state-of-the-art sorting system that would take care of that for us. We were told that they accepted plastic of all types! WOW!! They even had a video showing the process! Awesome. For YEARS I didn’t give this a second thought. We just chucked everything into our dumpster – trash, yard waste, recyclables - and that was that.
Fast forward to about a year ago when I started learning more about recycling. Every local municipality with its own refuse management has TONS of rules about recycling…no plastic bags, no plastics of specific numbers, no paper contaminated by food, cans and glass must be clean, among others. And I started thinking….if EVERYBODY else has these issues with recycling, why does the company Olga and I use NOT have these problems? Why don’t we have to do what Pasadena or Burbank does?
So, since enquiring minds want to know, and what the heck else do I have to do during corona lockdown, I called our trash company and asked some questions. Why don’t we have to clean our recyclables? What percentage of the glass, paper, plastic, metal collected are recycled? How many tons of refuse are collected from my town? How many tons goes to the landfill? Is the yard waste that is collected composted? And the answer to all these questions was – we don’t collect that data. When I asked if I could tour their facility, the answer was a swift, “NO!”
My next thought was that I would go into full investigative reporter mode and follow the trash trucks for several weeks to see if I could figure out what was happening. But going on a stake out has never really appealed to me – I like the idea of coffee and doughnuts in the car, but when and where do we go to the bathroom?
So Olga and I decided on a different course of action. We both started sorting our own recyclables into boxes in our garages – glass, paper, carboard, metal and plastic. Olga found a recycling place near us. And in August I went with her to take our recyclables to the center. Our logic is as follows – if they’re paying us for this stuff, they must be taking it somewhere where THEY get paid and are not paying the fee to dump it in the landfill.
In the course of exploring all of this, at our house we decided to stop using a dumpster and to use individual trash cans instead. We thought we would have a better idea of our waste output if we did a little sorting. And now that our yard waste isn’t mixed with trash, we are more consistent in using it for composting and mulch. And here’s the kicker – our monthly bill for trash is ONE THIRD of what it was when we had the dumpster!!! YAY!!
Olga and I do some other stuff too:
I have to admit – never did I think I would be collecting trash, sorting it, and taking it to a collection site. However, at least now I think there is a good chance that the stuff we are recycling may actually be getting recycled, instead of going to a landfill, which is what I suspect may be happening with our trash company. It is also clear to me now that while I thought we were recycling we were actually WISH CYCLING for years!!!
DON’T BE A WISH-CYCLER!!! TAKE A FEW MINUTES AND DO RECYCLING RIGHT!!!
IF YOU HAVE A MUNICIPAL RECYCLING PROGRAM, BE SURE YOU KNOW THE RULES FOR HOW TO RECYLE PROPERLY!!