Thursday, July 17, 2008


I was surprised to find myself reacting very strongly to something while in Rhode Island for my family reunion: no recycling. A house full of thirty+ people drinking can after can, bottle after bottle of alcohol, and there was not a blue bin to be found. We had to throw them all away in the garbage. And the newspapers, too.

This practice actually made me physically uncomfortable. I was very surprised (and happy!) to see how my body responded to the idea of overflowing the landfills. I never quite gave up hope and trolled the house looking for potentially missed recycling supplies. I even left a wine bottle in the sink to rinse, hoping that I would sober up and it would all be a bad dream and the cans would all get recycled in the morning. (This was after I nearly swallowed a fly that got into my merlot)

As a girl who just took a composting class and has her own Earth Machine, I was equally horrified at our being forced to throw out gallons of coffee grounds and vegetable scraps. I even briefly considered sticking all the food waste in a Tupperware container to bring home on the plane and compost, but my bathing suit already smelled like a pot of miso soup and I thought better of myself in the end.

This did not stop me from twitching like a Tourette's patient every time a relative walked over to the garbage with a crinkled Beast Light can. When I got home I googled the area and discovered that there are drop-off locations for recycling, but these are several towns over and there is no curb-side pickup. How can this be?

I think I have gotten spoiled by my recycling services here. We manage to have only one small bag of garbage every two weeks because everything else gets either recycled or stuffed into the Earth Machine. We don't even have to sort! It all just gets stuffed into the blue bags I bought at Home Depot.

If I'm really honest, though, most people aren't as zealous as Corey and I about being tree huggers. People still look at me like I'm crazy when I carry my purchases out of stores without bags or whip out my pocket-sized market bag to tote things home. Family members have shaken their heads at me when I take public transportation to bring home my ample meat subscription. Students at work are a little scared of me when they forget to print documents two-sided and I leap from my chair and scold them for being wasteful.

I figure there is so much stuff I do wrong for the earth, like use bleach sometimes in my laundry or get my toenails painted, that I need to do everything I can to make up for it. I did, after all, grow up watching Captain Planet. If anyone is to blame for my recycling fervor it is my mother, who didn't let us watch Nickelodeon. Nothing else on tv was any good apart from Captain Planet, so my mother thusly indoctrinated us with environmental fatalism from a young age. What child, inundated with those images of the smogged-out Grand Canyon, could sleep at night after throwing beer cans in the trash can? Not this one!


Rosemary said...

Just to defend RI a little, having grown up there I found it a quite luxurious and a little lazy to live in a place where they pick up your garbage for you curbside. We have always had to bring our own trash to the 'dump' and our recycling too. I think having to deal with your trash yourself definitely makes you more aware of how much waste you are actually creating (especially when you have to pay per bag you drop in, like we do). But Rhode Island has been recycling for quite a while, I guess the state just doesn't quite have the funds to make it curbside pick-up (plus it might be administered town to town). I can understand that this is a problem for visitors to the state who aren't in the habit of driving their refuse away, and it's too bad more hotels etc, don't offer recycling bins. But my lil' ole state was one of the first to even offer recycling facilities and working a little harder to do the right thing makes it that much more rewarding.

Katy said...

Rosie that's an excellent defense of Rhode Island! I was being so ethnocentric I guess I forgot that of course the natives must recycle. You know what this experience has taught me? To look into recycling facilities in advance before I take vacations. I'm for real!

Em said...

Ames has no curbside recycling. A couple times a month I take all our recycling, seperated by bags, to the center. Their hours suck, though, so finding time to haul it out there is a pain. When I was a kid we used huge 55 gallon soda syrup barrels from the Pepsi plant to store the recycling, and loaded them onto the truck with the tractor bucket loader to take them to the center. I wish we had curbside.

ninny said...

as i was driving to the beach on garbage pick up day i saw curbside recycling! glass, aluminum, and plastic!!!