Ok.. maybe not fully green. But some shade of green. Mint green maybe. But it is a start. Anything is better than what we have been doing.
A few weeks ago, my kids I were talking about recycling. One of them probably brought the subject up because, at that point, I’m not sure it was important enough to me to introduce into a conversation. Yes, I was that bad. Anyway, we decided we were going to start our own little recycling program at home.
In order for me to take this “be-green-save-the-planet-thing” a little more seriously than I had in the past, I needed to do a little research on it. I tend to feel like I need to fully understand everything before I do anything. That has left a lot of things undone in my world. There is a medical term for it, but that is not what we are talking about here so I will move on.
I don’t remember the phrase I actually googled, but it was something like “how does a moron start to recycle”. There is a lot of good information available on the Internet. So, I started surfing and printing all the information I could find. My research had been underway for an hour or so when I got to an article about not wasting paper. I looked at my printer and saw about 100 pages of information that I was going to read one time then throw away. Woops, wrong direction. So, instead of printing, I started book marking sites. I hate using book marks, but I did it anyway. I decided that was step #1 toward a better world.
I soon realized there was more to recycling than I thought. We decided we would start slow. Paper (which I already had some experience in) and plastics looked like a good place to start. Before we saved anything, I wanted to know where we were going to take it to get rid of it. I’ve got enough piles of stuff around my house without creating more piles that I don’t know what to do with. I found a recycling center not too far away so I called to get their operating hours. Well, I also got their rules for accepting recyclable materials. They were quite lengthy, so I told the lady on the phone to focus only on paper and plastics. Her rules on paper and plastics were quite lengthy also. They are picky people.
Paper must be divided into categories. Newspaper, magazines, mail and office paper (of which I expect to have less of now), cardboard, catalogs and brown paper bags (who uses those anymore?) must be separated and bundled. Plastics must be rinsed out and have no more that 5% food products on them. I’m not sure how they determine the 5%, but it seemed important to her. Plastics are divided into seven (count them seven!) different categories. Separating them is easy enough because the little recycle emblem on the bottom has the number stamped in it. The closest recycle center to me only takes type 1 and 2 plastics. It was really fun going around the house looking at the bottom of all of the plastic things I could find, but I could not find any type 1 or 2 items. I was too far into this project to be deterred by such trivial matters, so we pressed on.
The kids had a lot of fun planning and organizing our recycling program. We got two big boxes and wrote “Paper” on one and “Plastics” on the other. For the last few weeks we have been placing all our paper and plastic items in these boxes. Sometimes we forget (it’s usually me that forgets) and we have to dig (it’s always me that digs) through the trash to get them out. Now, I figure on the original rinse we knock the food product percentage to close to zero, but by the time it comes back out of the trash, I estimate that it is back up to about 12-15%, which I know is unacceptable. So I do another rinse (I’m going to read about conserving water next) and put them in the appropriate box.
When the box started getting full I realized I needed to do something with the type 3-7 plastics. Again, I got on the Internet and found a recycling/waste management site about 25 miles away that said they took all types of plastic. With the gas prices like they have been, I already know about conserving fuel so I called them first to make sure I was not going to make a wasted trip.
The lady I talked to said they were a state-of-the-art recycling location and did what she called “single stream” recycling. She explained that all items go down the same path and they have the technology and machinery to sort the recyclables out like they need to be. In fact, she volunteered, most of their customers are trash haulers that just unload their trucks there and their process sorts all the recyclables from the unusable garbage. My mind was already ahead of her when she asked the next question. “What company collects your garbage?” I hesitated, but when I finally told her, she said “Yeah, they are one of our biggest suppliers. All you have to do is just throw everything in the garbage can. They will pick it up, bring it out here to us and we will get all the recyclable stuff out of it.”
I haven’t had the heart to tell the kids about this yet. We are still sorting out paper and plastics. Except now, when the “Paper” and “Plastics” boxes get full, I just wait for the kids to go to school and I go out and empty them in the garbage can.