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2013-04-04 digital edition

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2013-04-04 / General Stories

Recycling Judges

Recycling has become a hot topic of late. Many people believe that we are using our planet’s resources faster than it can replenish them. The obvious answer is to reuse those resources over and over.

It seems like common sense, but is amazing how much time and money is spent simply trying to convince our population to get on board with this world-wide project.

Our small town only recently began a recycling program where the trash man would pick up all recyclable material in the same bin. You don’t have to separate it by type. This is good because I’m almost certain that I could not possibly fit five trash cans under my sink. I’d need one for every category: paper, plastic, glass, aluminum and non-recyclable trash.

I’d have to hide them all over my kitchen.

“Honey, where are we putting the aluminum cans this week?”

“In the potato bin.”

“Where are the potatoes?”

“We ran out.”

“Where do the glass jars go?”

“The crisper drawer in the refrigerator.”

“Hmm.No fresh vegetables this week either, huh?”

“I was thinking we could go out for dinner this week.”

So, yeah, putting all the recyclable material in one bin is the best option. However, to my way of thinking, this means that there is somebody at the other end of the line that has to separate them by hand. It was okay when I thought a big machine and a couple of bulldozers were processing the recently acquired garbage, but now I had to think about that guy wading through my recyclables and judging whether they are worthy.

A paper plate is certainly recyclable, but what if that paper plate had peanut butter on it? As far as I know, peanut butter is not on the recycling list. So does the plate go in the recycling bin or not? If I toss it in there indiscriminately, is the recycling judge going to be calling me a moron in seven different languages? Perish the thought!

I’ll simply wash my paper plate before I toss it in the recycle bin. This, of course, negates the purpose of paper plates, which is playing right into environmentalists’ plans. Why cut down trees in the first place if you’re going to wash your paper plates anyway?

I like trees as much as the next guy, but sometimes, I just don’t want to wash dishes. In that argument, the tree loses.

Now, if we could engineer a tree that grew plates, we wouldn’t have to cut it down. We could just go around picking plates off our trees, and since they’d be organic, we could simply toss them in the garden when we’re done eating, even if there was peanut butter on them.

I worry about things like whether the cap on the milk jug is the same kind of recyclable plastic as the jug. Can you recycle colored newspaper as well as black and white? If a glass jar has a paper label do you have to separate the two? Is used Kleenex recyclable?

If only I could simply leave it to the recycling judge to figure all that out. I want to be responsible and a good steward of the planet, as I suspect many people do. At the same time, I have an unhealthy empathy for the nameless recycling judge. I was taught that our actions can sometimes cause adverse consequences for other people and, apparently, the planet. I don’t want to make the recycling judge’s job even harder and I don’t want him to think badly of me.

So, like most people, I’ll simply do the best I can and hope that the recycling judge will understand.

Laura Snyder is a nationally syndicated columnist, author & speaker.

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