Metro-East Living

Recycling is a good thing — but time consuming, even a bit frustrating

Recycling sounds like such a good idea, but like most things, it is more complicated than it sounds. It is more than simply saving some stuff from landfills.

The other day I dug into a bin I have outside in which I store paper and plastic shopping bags. After the digging was done, I had 20 plastic shopping bags full of paper and after taking the stuff to a nearby paper recycling bin and saving the plastic bags, I had nine plastic shopping bags stuffed full of plastic shopping bags.

While that strikes me vaguely as cannibalism, actually it is just good use of resources. In fairness, I must reveal some of the shopping bags were from my mother-in-law, who has an amazing ability to accumulate them.

I am good at storing paper. It comes every morning in the form of newspapers and every afternoon in the form of junk mail. I just fill the bags with it and toss it in the storage bin outside. Every once in a while the bin gets so full the lid won’t close and I have to drag it out and recycle.

Luckily Belleville has single stream recycling so I can toss all the plastic, metal, cardboard and glass in one container and the city picks it up every week.

But it is hard to remember what kind of plastic the recyclers want. It needs to be clean or the recyclers will toss it in the landfill lest it contaminate the other plastic. Also, different resources online give different advice on what plastic can be recycled, (it is numbered one to seven and the little recycling triangle with the number in the middle is supposed to be at least one-half inch in diameter,) and what to do with bottle caps (leave them on, take them off or get rid of them.)

2020 Wally Spiers Cropped.jpg
BND columnis Wally Spiers

And don’t even get me started on electronics which is the hardest thing to recycle. If you do find a place that will accept them, most likely it will charge to take anything.

I also had a bag of aluminum cans but recyclers will pay you for them.

I have a compost pile in my yard which grows bigger and bigger because composting isn’t that hard, but actually digging out and using the compost is another thing entirely.

Good thing I am retired and have enough time for recycling. It takes a bit.

The other day, after recycling the paper and gathering up the plastic bags, I drove them to a supermarket to stuff them in their plastic bag recycling container. As I drove into the parking lot I was searching for a close place to park and unload the bags. There wasn’t one and I looked back just in time to avoid running over a guy who was crossing the road.

For all the good karma you get from recycling, I think it would be more than wiped out by killing someone while doing it.

Wally Spiers is a former News-Democrat reporter and columnist who retired in 2015. He still writes a monthly column for the BND.