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« Through The Looking Glass | Main | Why Our Iraq Policy Is Correct »

Never Again

A few years ago, our local waste disposal service passed out nice new ample blue bins in which to put our recyclables. One was clearly labeled "glass, metal and plastic only" and the other was clearly labeled "paper only." For years, I've been dutifully separating out the bottles and cans from the newpapers, and putting each in its assigned bin, and schlepping them down to the curb on Tuesdays.

Silly me.

Today, I happened to be down in the front of the house when the recycling truck came rumbling down the street. I decided to hang around until they picked up ours, so that I could carry the empty bins back up to the house. I watched, with mild interest, as they picked up the ones down the street. Then, I watched, with increasing horror as I realized what I was seeing. When they came to mine, my nightmare was confirmed. There was a single receptacle on the front of the truck, which would periodically empty itself into the main storage in the bed behind the driver. They nonchalantly took first the "glass, metal and plastic bin" and dumped it into that receptacle. Then they repeated the process with the "paper" bin.

Apparently, separating the stuff is as futile as sifting out the peas from the mashed potatoes in each mouthful--they all end up in the same place. If it ever gets usefully separated, it must be after it reaches the dump. Is my face red.

On top of the recent news that recycling doesn't save any money or resources, I hope that we can simplify all of our trash collection in the near future.

Posted by Rand Simberg at March 18, 2003 05:56 PM
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Holy cow, it wasn't just me! I was home from work the day they picked up my recyclables and dumped them into the same container as the regular trash. It's all a conspiracy by the recycling-container people.

Posted by Eric Lindholm at March 18, 2003 07:40 PM

I thought "recycling is mostly a waste of time" was known for a while, but I can never keep track of that stuff anymore. I've repeatedly read that recycled aluminum's about the only substance that has a positive result.

I do use returnable containers when I can... unfortunately the only ones I use on a regular basis are for milk. That's one of the few ways to honestly recycle, but the US totally has this firmly entrenched "throw everything away or recycle it in the container" mindset.

Then again, I've been repeatedly chastized for having a solar-powered house as some of the metals used in making the solar cells are toxic. Sigh. Goes to show that with some folks you just can't win.

Posted by Sanitation Engineer #6 at March 18, 2003 08:01 PM

I had a similar occurrence here in N.C. a few years ago. So I called and asked the private company that picked up our trash at the time. I was told they have machines that separate all the different types of recyclables at their plant. No problem. I just quit separating it. I kept mixing my stuff; they kept picking it up, no problem.

Two months ago, just two months ago, they were fined several thousand dollars for dumping the mixed recyclables into the landfill. Call your local folks and make sure its being treated correctly. I'm not a "green" weenie, but if this stuff needs to be kept out of the landfill, then let them do what they are paid to do.

I'm not going to get anyone into legal hassles by naming who the private outfit was, but if HAL in 2001 was supposed to be IBM, then my trash guys were AEH, I just couldn't resist.

Posted by Steve at March 18, 2003 08:02 PM

I had family living in Belgium (near Waterloo) during the nineties, and they reported seeing the same sort of thing. It was made even more silly by the fact that the place had curb-side-sorted recycling bins everywhere, not just for individual residences.

What made it most irksome for them was when they tried bringing the topic up with locals, only to discover that everyone knew the junk was all going back into a single pile and didn't care

Posted by Mac at March 18, 2003 08:26 PM

Except for aluminum (which has economic value as scrap because of the high cost of refining raw bauxite), its all been an attempt to turn us into human racoons, digging through trash.

Before the big "recycling" craze, there used to be a market for waste paper. When I was in high school back in the 1970s (has it been that long?), one way for school groups in the small town midwest to raise money was the "paper drive". Since you knew some group would eventually take them away, most folks kept a pile of old newspapers out back in the shed, for the kids to cart away. If i remember correctly, you could get a few hundred dollars a ton at times.

I'm sure that given time and incentives, similar programs might have been set up for buying sorted glass (which does have some value) and a few other things.

Then came "recycling", and the price dropped, not that there was paper to be had. At one point the price actually went negative-- you had to pay the scrap dealers to take the stuff off your hand, or cart it to the dump yourself.

So once again, government mandates kill off markets that were already solving the problems that the gov't mandate was supposed to solve. Welcome to Leftthink.

Posted by Raoul Ortega at March 18, 2003 09:00 PM

I do "recycle" aluminum, in a way. There is a very poor elderly couple who comes by and scavenges through our dumpster about once a week looking for cans to sell to the recycling facility. Whenever I see them, I take my bag full of cans down and hand them over.

Posted by Eli at March 19, 2003 01:38 PM

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