Is recycling really worth bloody fingers?

Really now, I asked Waste Management, is it worth your while and mine for you to stop and pick up four dog food cans, three cat food cans, one milk carton, an empty whiskey bottle and a sauerkraut jar?

“That’s our job,” WM said.

Actually, I wouldn’t have the whiskey bottle every time, or the kraut jar, either, and I know I have been paying for having my recyclables picked up all along although I haven’t put anything out.

My neighbors have baskets full of stuff, but I haven’t felt so dedicated.

In fact, if I emptied as many beer cans as some folks do, I’d be a little shy about letting everybody know it.

What has forced me to face up to recycling is when WM dropped off a great big container at my driveway. Everybody got one to replace the baskets. There it sat, daring me to fill it, I guess. It had a circular in it telling me what to put in it and what not.

I read it carefully. Plastic bottles, no caps. What am I supposed to do with the caps? Metal cans, labels OK, but no food residue. Newspapers and inserts. Plastic stuff, cardboard, glass milk cartons, phone books, aluminum cans.

I am not supposed to recycle plastic bags. That was a disappointment — I get four daily newspapers in plastic sacks. No batteries, no amber-colored prescription vials.

No frozen food bags. No coat hangers, No styrofoam.

I called WM and got a woman. “Do I have to recycle?” I asked. I’ve already cut my hand twice try to wash the cans.

Now that I have the recycling container, she said, WM won’t pick up cans in the garbage anymore. I hung up, rebuffed.

I called a friend in King County and asked her whether she recycles. She said yes.

“What do you do with your cans?”

“I put them in the garbage,” she said.

I called WM back. Got a different woman.

I told her about my hand. You don’t have to scrub the cans, she said, just rinse them. That’s all I do, she said, I just keep a cardboard box handy and throw my recycles in it.

Newspapers go in with cans?

“Sure,” she said, “but not in sacks.

“You know,” she said, “you don’t have to recycle. We can’t make you recycle.”

“Well, that’s good to know,” I said.

“The garbage man walks up to my house and picks up my garbage, for which I pay him extra,” I said. “Since the recycle man will be a different truck, I guess I’d have to pay him to do the same.”

“Probably,” she said.

“Do I have to keep my container on the road? What if the paper lady turns around in my driveway?”

“The container can’t be more than five feet from the truck,” she said, “or they have to turn the engine off.”

She said she’d get back to me.

A man got back to me from WM.

“Just ask me anything you need to know,” he said.

“Am I really supposed to throw all this stuff into the container?”

“Sure,” he said.

“How in the world do you sort it out?”

He explained that they use fiber-optics that will fluff up the newspapers and disk in them.

I have no idea what that means but decided not to ask.

“But why no bottle caps?”

He said something to the effect that that kind of confused the fiber optics in its sorting of the cans. OK then. I don’t care.

As for the walk-up service, WM is discussing how to make that possible with the recyclables as well as the regular garbage. I figure that as long as I’d have to pay for it, I’d just take the recyclables down to the road myself.

After all, how much can four dog food cans, three cat food cans, one milk carton, one whiskey bottle and one jar weigh?

Adele Ferguson can be contacted at PO Box 69, Hansville, WA 98340.

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