(This piece is from my archives.)
I live in a town of dedicated recyclers.
Holly Hill, a curious name for our town dump and recycling center, meticulously collects all our garbage, providing separate sanctioned collection areas for most of the refuse we generate in modern day America.
In a mysterious soul satisfying way, this industrious facility is a good place to visit.
Recycling is not for the faint of heart.
It is a painstaking task.
Boxes must be flattened and thrown into one dumpster, magazines and mixed paper in another. Newspapers are collected in another container, while glass and plastics bearing the tiny indecipherable 1’s and 2’s are crushed together in another.
Got old batteries rolling around a kitchen drawer at home? There is a can for those too.
Sometimes, there is even a receptacle for used sneakers slated to be ground into material for athletic fields.
Mr. Peanut House, a dilapidated shed, has barrels for the universally despised Styrofoam peanuts.
Another shed is lined with books, and you can help yourself. It’s overseen by an elderly gentleman with a love of reading and discriminating taste. Two days a week he accepts donations of books that he deems worthy of his shelves.
Our personal garbage is collected and stored in the garage – a patiently waiting mass of stuffed paper bags and tumbling towers of boxes, until I acquiesce and drive it to the recycling center. There, I wait in line for my chance to empty the car of things we never asked for….things that went on a beeline from the mailbox to our garage.
This task takes a lot of energy on a multitude of levels; lifting, hauling, tossing, sorting….all with the hope it will be resurrected into something useful.
Many of the people I see at Holly Hill are elderly, carefully sifting through their weeks worth of newspapers, doing their part to alleviate the pressure we put on our planet’s resources. Maybe after a lifetime of wars and rationing and making do, they recognize our foolhardiness better than we do.
It’s expensive to separate our garbage, send it to a collection center, and then haul it away to be broken down and reused.
But the real cost is the price we pay not to bother.
One day I was there when the wind was gusting at fifty miles an hour, and the thermometer topped out at 17 degrees.
The garbage was bursting out of the dumpsters and flying through the parking lot.
And the elderly were toughing it out alongside everyone else.
One poor women lost her keys and had two men down inside the dumpster sifting through the tide of waste, as others tossed in their garbage, burying them in more paper.
Typically, with this onerous chore behind me, I drive away feeling lighter, buoyant even, and self –satisfied.
I recognize the deception in this.
I really want to stop the madness of unwanted mailings, unnecessary phonebooks, and the mindless use of plastics.
If you have found a viable way to stop the junk mail that fills our mailboxes, please let me know.
(The town instituted Single Stream Recycling a year ago- the topic of my next post.)