Category Archives: Environmentalism

A day or so in the life of a compulsive recycler (is there an A&E show for this?)

I tend to drive people a little crazy with my recycling. I don’t carry a soapbox in my handbag nor am I militant about many things. Or so I thought, until I chronicled roughly 48 (inconsistent) hours of my plastic and paper snatching.

This study isn’t exactly scientific: the bright idea came to me on the night of Jan. 30, which means New Year’s Eve celebrating fell into the 48-hour period. I wasn’t at home, either, but rather at my family’s house for the holidays. So the results are a little skewed. In addition, it forced me to dig things out of the trashcan. Which I don’t usually do. Usually.

But each time I glanced into the trashcan I saw paper, plastic, glass, and steel that could easily be salvaged and reused with just a little effort. What extremes do others go to in order to recycle?

For me, it’s a habit I can’t break. And if I’m ever at your house, I just might rummage through your trash, or patiently explain what paper you can (newspaper) or can’t (paper towels) recycle.

Actually, I’d love to do that.

Dec. 30, 2009

Sitting at the kitchen table at 10:41 p.m. playing a game of cards, I polish off a plastic bottle of water, crunch it up, walk to my bedroom and toss it into my “plastics” recycling bag next to my luggage.

Two minutes later, back at the kitchen table and waiting for my turn to play, I notice empty plastic water and Pepsi bottles in the trash; pull them out, wash, put in dish drainer to dry. Closer inspection reveals a plastic fountain drink lid and straw beneath dirty paper towels. Pull out, wash, dry.

My hands smell funny.

At 10:51 p.m. we’re still playing cards, and I notice an empty 59-oz plastic lemonade bottle on the sink that my mom saved for me! It’s already rinsed out.

She’s learning!

Earlier that day at the public library, I scribbled something down on a library newsletter. After being a sore loser at cards and retreating to my bedroom at 11:35 p.m., I decide I don’t need the scribbled-down note any longer. Tear it up and toss it in my “papers” recycling bag.

I bought something at Dollar General earlier that day and three minutes after slam-dunking the newsletter, I recycled the plastic bag.

Dec. 31, 2009

It’s 8:20 a.m. and while I’m waiting for the coffee to brew in the kitchen, I grab the lemonade, Pepsi, and water bottles I left drying the night before. Plus another water bottle and a McDonald’s iced coffee cup/lid/straw I’d washed a few days ago. Into my plastics bag they all go!

At 8:31 a.m., as I’m walking into the living room to enjoy my coffee and some Saved By The Bell, I detect recycling in the trashcan. It’s a sixth sense. Sure enough, there’s a discarded peanut butter jar, a fast food paper bag and a plastic coffee cup mocking me from atop a mountain of dirty napkins.

I grab the plastic cup and paper bag, but I leave the PB jar. There’s nothing nastier than cleaning peanut butter off of something. But as Zack Morris gets into mishap after mishap, I start to feel guilty. Back to the kitchen. I fill up the PB jar with hot water in order to make washing it a little later a little easier.

My dad walks by and says good morning.

At 8:38 a.m. I head back to the kitchen for more coffee and discover that my dad has poured out the water from the PB jar and has thrown the jar away…again!

An argument ensues.

He tells me that he isn’t wasting his water to clean off something so I can recycle it. He also tells me he isn’t going to recycle and no one can make him. That’s what trash collectors are for.

Yikes. We put our soapboxes away for the time being, but my PB jar gets cleaned and recycled.

At 12:57 p.m., after a trip to the grocery store, I recycle cardboard from Diet Coke and Orange Crush packages. Two minutes later, my mom confesses she put a plastic 2-liter bottle in the trash. She takes it out, rinses it, and gives it to me.

She’s so learning!

At 1:18 p.m., while waiting for my family to get ready so we can go out for lunch, I take the time to organize recycling in my trunk. Already in there are a few bags of plastic coffee and creamer containers from work and some newspapers that need to go, too.

My trunk looks nice now. There’s plenty of room for more recycling!

Back at home, my sister gives me an empty 2-liter Sprite bottle at 3:42 p.m.

Good girl!

At 6:40 p.m., I notice an empty Reynolds Wrap box I forgot I put on the washer.

It’s New Year’s Eve, and I’m making my world-famous stuffed mushrooms. At 7:19 p.m. I’m already late for a party, and I hurriedly toss cardboard mushroom containers from the produce section and a washed-out plastic cream cheese container into my recycling bags. Should probably re-wash that cream cheese container again tomorrow, just in case.

Jan. 1, 2010

I get a late start this day.

At 1:08 p.m., my mom gives me a plastic water bottle to recycle. I’m totally loving this woman, especially when at 1:17 p.m. I find a 2-liter Pepsi bottle she’s washed and left for me on the kitchen sink.

After polishing off the rest of my Bolthouse Farms Vanilla Chai Tea at 1:54 p.m., I recycle the bottle.

On my drive home that morning, I’d bought a coffee from McDonalds. I decided at 2:44 p.m. to keep the cup and use it again. It’s a good, strong cup.

Around 2:53 p.m., I notice some deli containers in the fridge, full of potato salad and baked beans. Before I can open my mouth, my dad tells me he’ll reuse them.

I leave them alone. For the time being.

Coffee break at 3:42 p.m. and time to reuse the McDonalds cup!

Take empty cardboard toilet paper roll from bathroom trashcan at 3:45 p.m.

Thankfully, my hands do not smell weird.

At 9:23 p.m., my dad puts an empty plastic milk container in the trash. In front of me. I get it out. He shakes his head.

As a final coup before dozing off at 10:24 p.m., I grab a cardboard paper towel roll I catch peeking out of the trashcan and shake it at him, before tossing it into my “papers” recycling bag!

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