Every time I throw away an empty metal can or plastic bottle, I feel a twinge of guilt. It’s about as bad as the day I climbed down the fire escape during chapel in grade school and got busted by Mother Superior. Now that the blue bag program has ended (“Blue Bags recycling program scrapped,” Nov. 2), and curbside recycling hasn’t spread to Grantsville yet, I’m going through withdrawals.
For as long as I can remember in my 20 years of marriage, my husband and I have always recycled. We collect our newspapers into a cardboard box on the dog crate. When the county started the Blue Bags program five years ago, we tossed our empty cans, squished milk jugs and my husband’s Dr. Pepper cans into a dedicated trash can.
We still recycle our newspapers. That hasn’t changed. I still lug a box to the parking lot at Grantsville Junior High and chase after L’Oreal ad inserts on windy days trying to get everything into the recycling dumpster.
But the plastics and metals, I admit, I still throw some in a blue bag in the garage. It’s a habit I can’t seem to break.
On the other hand, recycling is a habit some people can’t seem to start.
I’m not here to lecture anyone on the wonders of recycling. Or play sad music while showing a sad world being defaced by dirt, a la “Sesame Street.” (Even though that made an indelible impression on me as a schoolgirl in the Philippines.)
What I’m asking is that you take your family to the landfill to see first-hand that the stuff we throw away every week doesn’t just disappear nebulously into some neat, tucked-away place. Our garbage, multiplied by a lot of other households, amounts to a stinking lot.
I did that one afternoon this past week with my 12-year-old daughter on the way to her flute lesson. We segued past La Frontera down the highway out to what used to be a mining town called Bauer but is now our county landfill.
If the sight and smell of a warehouse full of garbage doesn’t turn you on to recycling, I don’t know what will. According to landfill rules, my daughter had to stay in the truck, but her dismay was written plainly on her face.
I got out, trying to not inhale too deeply, and surveyed the mound of stuff waiting to be sorted in a building with two open bays. There were broken TV sets and ripped couches, as well as cans and papers that could have been recycled but were now co-mingled with filth.
The landfill does its best, now that workers have a machine that can sort recyclable materials. But imagine what a savings in manpower it would be to have all that pre-sorted before recyclables end up there.
Some people are skeptical of recycling programs. They’re just feel-good, they say. The conspiracy theorists say there are mounds of recycling just languishing somewhere, as was discovered in Chicago recently.
You know what, though? All we can do as residents is to do our part, so when our local programs get their act together, we can recycle more efficiently.
As for me, curbside recycling can’t come soon enough to Grantsville.
Jewel Punzalan Allen is a memoir writing coach and a long-time journalist who lives in Grantsville. She blogs at pink-ink-pink.blogspot.com.