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The Zen of Recycling July 15, 2008

Posted by alwaysjan in Going Green.
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“I’m recycling the dog food cans now,” my husband cheerily informed me this morning.  That’s just the sort of thing I want to hear before my morning coffee has kicked in.  Richard was enthusiastically rinsing out a can, using enough water to take the level of the California Aqueduct down a notch or two.  

My British houseguests have left for a scenic drive up the coast and I’ve been left with the evidence of our wild week of entertaining.  Mainly the green glass kind of evidence.  I went out to survey the damage this morning. There’s a mountain of plastic bags.  Unless I haul it off, it shall be featured on future physical maps of California and known as K3.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m all for recycling.  It’s just that we’re wallowing in it. We used to just make a semi-annual caravan to the recycling center at the neighborhood supermarket.  They took aluminum cans, glass bottles, and plastic.  Period.  And the plastic could be iffy because, depending on the day of the week, it had to have either an even number, an odd number, or a prime number.  I always returned home with sticky hands and a bag of “rejects.”

I’m proud to say I’ve been cutting up plastic six-pack rings for years so those playful dolphins and other less playful and not so photogenic sea creatures wouldn’t become entangled in them.  I did hear a comedian say he liked to cut only five out of the six rings in keeping with Darwin’s survival of the fittest.  Evidently there are fish swimming in the shallow end of the gene pool as well.

But then we were introduced to the Recycling Center at Caltech where you can recycle everything.  EVERYTHING!  Life hasn’t been the same since.  You can either toss all of your recycling in the trunk of your car and sort it out when you get there or act like a professional and pre-sort.  Note: If you’re of the former school, make sure the entire trunk is encased in heavy plastic or in summer months you’ll smell like a wino on wheels.

We haven’t quite figured out a sorting system yet.  I’ve pulled out an old term paper from college and think that we need to go with Roman numerals like V for plastic and then we can group the various sub-species of plastic in bins with lower-case alphabet letters.  I’d like to see you come up with a better idea.

My friend Rebecca, who teaches the class next to mine, enthusiastically launched a recycling program at our school last year.  Classes were to take turns walking the recycling over to Caltech. That way students could participate and develop the recycling habit. Teachers and students enthusiastically carted piles/wads/rolls/spit wads of paper to a designated spot, conveniently located just outside my classroom door.  

But it soon became apparent that the weekly trips to Caltech couldn’t keep pace with the sheer volume of paper generated.  It made me realize not only how much paper we go through, but how much is wasted.  Don’t even get me started on the styrofoam lunch trays that pile up in the cafeteria every day along with enough sporks to…well, you get the picture.  And it’s not a pretty one.    

The week before Open House, when a school is supposed to ooze, “I’m ready for my close-up,” it looked like a New York City garbage scow outside my class.  All that was missing were the seagulls and their arrival was imminent. The pile of papers miraculously disappeared before Open House in a frantic last-minute recycling mission.  At least I’m hoping that’s where they ended up. There’s some things you’re better off not knowing.

So, K3 awaits.  I think I’ll snap on some of those latex gloves so I feel like a forensic crime scene investigator and not a lowly person with only a B.S. degree (as in Bottle Sorter).  But then I’ll have to recycle the latex gloves.

Comments»

1. Rebecca - July 16, 2008

Yes, the gross amount of papers around Open House were recycled properly for at least two weeks due to the sheer volume collected the weeks prior. We are talking about a LOT of paper here. Even though some people thought the large pile of papers was a mighty bit unsightly, it also made a point…Didn’t it?

I enjoy your comments about CalTech recycling.. it does truely change the experiance of recycling alltogether doesn’t it? Good luck with that numerical system, though… Golly I just pile it all in and sort it there!

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