Wait! Don’t Throw That Away!

I’m in love with my compost bin. I know that’s strange, but it’s true. I’m also mighty fond of the big blue recycle bin. The garbage bin, eh. But you should see me on Thursday nights rolling my full carts to the curb, lining them up like Papa Bear, Mama Bear and Baby Bear, and the happy dance that follows on Friday when they’re empty again. I get so excited watching those big trucks roll up, stretch out their mechanical arms, raise my bin up high and dump everything in the back of the truck.

It was just a mild affection until the compost bin arrived a couple months ago. I finally had someplace to put my yard waste. I became a lawn-mowing, bush-trimming, food-composting maniac. I can’t wait to get the bins emptied so I can fill them up again, except for the garbage bin, which doesn’t get much in it anymore. Ooh, and last week I picked up this cool black food waste pail to hold things like my grapefruit rinds, tea bags and chicken bones until I can get them out to the Papa Bear bin.

My neighbor across the street does not compost or recycle. He burns his yard waste and throws everything else in the garbage. He sees no point in recycling. Add that to the list of topics we can’t discuss, a list that includes gun control, religion, politics, yoga, taking one’s dog to obedience school, and all the rest of my yuppie ideas. But he’s a good guy and has been helpful to me in my solitary life in the woods. Annie adores him, so we know he’s not all bad.

But I’m sticking to my stand on recycling. Have you ever been to a landfill? I have. As part of my reporter life, I have stood at the edge of these stinking piles of refuse and watched lines of garbage trucks dumping more and more. It’s horrible. The average American throws away four pounds of trash a day. That’s seven tons a year. We can recycle about 75 percent of our waste, but only about 30 percent actually gets recycled. All that stuff that goes into the landfill just stays there. A fact sheet from California State University Sacramento notes that it takes approximately 1 million years for a glass bottle to break down in a landfill. Plastics take at least 100 years, maybe as long as 400 years. Things like microwave ovens, iPads and tennis shoes, God knows how long it will take and what chemicals may be leaching into our air, soil, and water.

Think about how much you and I throw away every day and multiply it by the more than 7 billion people in the world. We are going to suffocate in our own garbage one of these days. We don’t have to. So much can be recycled and reused if we just do our part.

Our parents didn’t recycle, but they also didn’t produce and discard so much crap. We used to think we were doing our part if we tossed our stuff in the wastebasket or garbage can instead of on the ground. I remember our old Shasta camping trailer had a decal in the window that showed a picture of a bee and said, “Don’t bee a litter bug.” We weren’t. But now we know there’s more to it than that. If my 93-year-old dad can learn to recycle, anybody can.

I pray that someday we can find a way to reuse everything so that we no longer have any need for landfills. Meanwhile my neighbor thinks I’m an idiot. Too bad. It occurs to me I could sneak into his garbage can on Thursday night after he goes to bed and take out the recyclables, but then again he has a whole room full of guns and has told me that if a bear shows up, he will shoot it. So, maybe not. He might think I’m a bear.

I don’t usually get so preachy here, but as I said, I’m obsessed with my bins right now. I’d love to know how you feel about recycling and what you do about getting rid of your debris. Please comment.

The following websites offer some great information on recycling.

Recycling facts from MIT dept. of facilities

11 Facts about recycling from dosomething.org

Recycling Facts from Recycle Across America

Sacramento State Environmental Students Organization recycling facts

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Author: Sue Fagalde Lick

writer/musician California native, Oregon resident Author of Freelancing for Newspapers, Shoes Full of Sand, Azorean Dreams, Stories Grandma Never Told, and Childless by Marriage. I have published hundreds of articles, plus essays, fiction and poetry. I teach writing workshops and offer individual editing and mentoring. I'm also pretty good at singing and playing guitar and piano.

2 thoughts on “Wait! Don’t Throw That Away!”

  1. I love to recycle, but at least here where we are living, only the #1 & #2 plastic containers and bottles are accepted, along with the glass, paper and cans of course. So when we eat cottage cheese or yogurt in those little plastic containers that are #5, they aren’t recyclable. We are drowning in plastic and much of it isn’t being recycled, not because we aren’t willing to, but because we are unable to. We have no recycling for green waste here, so that goes in the trash can.

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    1. It’s frustrating, isn’t it, Sue? We only recently started getting yard waste recycled, so I was putting it in the trash, too, and that didn’t feel right at all. We are so limited by the options offered where we live. I hope those options will expand everywhere.

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