Recycling (and fails)

It's a sad day in the world of Julie. Sigh.

I just spent a good hour attempting to recycle the items that have taken over our garage. It happens every so often—I wait too long and suddenly a trip through our garage is like navigating an obstacle course, with broken-down cardboard boxes threatening to tumble over in one direction and boxes full of brown glass bottles and tubs of soda cans blocking your way the next.

So I got down to business, sorting and organizing all that recycling before loading it into my car and heading to the great new recycling center I wrote about last month. The only problem? It was closed.

"Darn," I said to myself. Then, in an attempt at optimism I said, "Well, self, maybe they just shortened their hours until spring." But deep down, I knew better.

So instead I drove down to the big recycling bins across from the park. I was out of luck with all the glass crowding my trunk (it's not accepted there), but at least I could recycle the cans and plastic containers and paper there. Only I hit another snag in the game plan: the giant bin for cans and plastic was full. No, more than full. It was overflowing. People had even left bags of items that didn't fit sitting on the walkway next to the bin (not good stewardship, in my opinion—who says hey, the recycling is full, I'll just throw my waste down on the ground for someone else to deal with—but that's another rant for another day).

So I dumped the tub of paper items I had with me in the paper bin (one little tub! out of a whole car's worth of recycling!) and headed home, determined to find out when the Good Sam recycling place was open to go back.

And then my greatest fears were confirmed. According to their website, due to financial difficulty (hmm—bet you haven't heard that phrase at all lately), the recycling center closed on 12/31/2008. Sigh again.

So now I have a car full of recycling and nowhere to take it.

This makes me very sad, for a number of reasons. For one thing, Conservative Boy (yes, him!) and I have gotten very good at recycling. Most weeks we only have one bag of garbage (that's not even all the way full) to take out to the curb. But what good does it do when there's nowhere to take it?

I know what some of you are going to say right now. Stop recycling. It's not worth it anyway. It wastes more energy than it saves. But you know what? I don't buy it. Yes, recycling does require energy—the energy to transport the goods to where they are recycled, to sort them, to break them down and manufacture them into whatever comes next. But the energy used to manufacture new products from raw materials is at least ten times more than the energy consumed by collecting and recycling—and by transporting the recycled goods to retailers too. (I did not pull this fact out of the air, by the way—it's from a 2004 study from the International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment. This is the sort of thing I like to read for fun.)

And, even if we aren't going to run out of room for landfills anytime soon, as lovely Umbra points out:

"... landfills themselves are no innocent wildflowers dotting the landscape. Piles of trash lying smushed together are fairly disgusting, seeping dubious goo and farting to beat an 8-year-old on a school bus. The leachate of our trash melange contains dangerous toxins. Diverting garbage of all sorts becomes increasingly urgent as electronics consumption (and thus disposal) rises. Recycling innocent tuna cans forms a habit that may eventually pave the way for recycling cell phones and car batteries."

I had to quote her. She says it so eloquently!

But still, Umbra's wisdom does not solve my problem. My car is full of recycling and I have nowhere to take it.

Photo: Rosa Say from Flickr


Kristin said...

Oh Julie - I feel for you! Nothing is worse than having a great effort thwarted.

Do any neighboring towns have drop-off centers?

Julie said...

Yes, fortunately! There are places in Springfield, where I attend graduate school, so I'm hoping I can make it to drop things off before I go to class this week. Until then, I guess the recycling will be hanging out in my car. :)

Nikki said...

Recycling not only saves energy in the production, transport, etc. it also saves the constant need for fresh fossil fuels. The more we re-use the crude by products we've already sucked from the earth, the farther the dwindling remainders will stretch to feed our other hobbies like heating our homes, powering our commutes, etc. And landfills are engineered to such an extent now that even though the leachate is controlled, the process accelerated to its max, even with all these amazing advances, we're STILL packing 'em full. So kudos to your Jules. Fight the good fight. Even if it takes a trip to Springfield to do it! Oh yes and make sure to BUY recycled when you can!