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Remember When You Could Just Throw Something Away?

September 18, 2017

Really... Do you remember when you could just throw something away? Where it once took a second to throw just about anything into one receptical we must now spend time sorting specific items into multiple, pre-approved containers, which you must drag to your curb on specific days. If you do it wrong, refuse collectors may refuse to take your trash away. Then again you may find a big, brightly colored sticker of shame slapped on the receptical wherein the unacceptable piece of trash resides explaining the details of your infraction. In the more fanatical recycling areas you may even be fined.



To help keep you in line, people like the fine eco-friendly folks over at WonderHowTo provide a detailed, seven-step tutorial (and even a video) to teach you how to throw your trash away. "Step One" (of course) is the suggestion that you "check the local laws regarding recycling in your town."


Honestly. At my age I never thought there would come a day when there would be laws regarding how you can and can't throw your trash away.


"Step Two" of the tutorial is where you're supposed to wash your trash before throwing it away.

Yes, "wash." I kid you not. Lord knows we can't have dirty trash in the landfill. Best to wash that stuff into the water system. 


You are also told that you are supposed to "rinse glass bottles, plastic containers and aluminum cans.," but (thankfully) the "labels do not have to be removed..." unless, of course, you live in Mahnomen, Minnesota. And, while you are required to "recycle the plastic caps of water and soda bottles," you are instructed to "toss the ones from laundry detergent and food containers."


Of course, they do not inform you of where you are supposed to "toss" them. Across the street perhaps? In a regular trash can, the way we use to do it in the first place? They also don't tell you whether or not you are supposed to rinse them before you "toss" them... somewhere.


Seems like a lot of effort, considering that all that stuff eventually winds up at the same place anyway. Just ask Penn & Teller


"If you are confused" about whether or not a plastic item qualifies for recycling, you are instructed to "look for its resin identification code - a triangle with a number inside."


"Products marked '1' and '2' are recyclable," you are informed. However, you are admonished not to recycle "unmarked plastic containers." Of course, once again, they don't tell you what you are supposed to do with the "unmarked plastic containers." Perhaps you are to "toss" those to that same unspecified place with the un-rinsed caps from your "laundry detergent and food containers."


"Step 3" is where you get to "separate" your trash.

(Will you next have to alphabetize it?)

"In general, containers that held food, beverages, household cleaners, or personal care products like shampoo and mouthwash are all recyclable."


Well isn't that special.


Unfortunately, you have to "separate plastic; glass; aluminum, tin, and aerosol cans; and aluminum foil." What you're supposed to do with it all afterwards? They don't say. My guess is they will all have their own special container... which you MUST use (or get a sticker of shame and/or a fine) and may even have to purchase from your city... and will likely be made of heavy-duty plastic... which is one of the things I thought eco-types were supposed to hate the most... But I digress.


Meanwhile, "light bulbs, drinking glasses, crystal, window and mirror glass, ceramics, and kitchen cookware don't get recycled."


Yep... more stuff to just "toss" somewhere.


And don't even get me started on those ridiculously expensive, toxic mercury loaded Compact Fluorescent Light bulbs (CFL), which Green American insists are so much better for the planet than those antiquated (yet affordable) incandescent light bulbs.  Have you ever taken the time to read the Environmental Protection Agency's lengthy "Before, During" and "After" procedures you must follow to throw one of those suckers away?


I prefer the old fashioned "open the lid on the garbage can and 'toss' the old and harmless incandescent bulb in it" method myself.


By the way... Have you ever tried to throw away a garbage can? Seriously… Have you?

I have… and I can tell you it’s dang-near impossible.


I once had one of those square, Rubber Maid jobbies with the handles that doubled as locks for the lid and wheels to make the trip to the curb a lot easier. But, with the low-rider wheels on one side, the bottom edge on the other side would sometimes drag on the cement driveway and eventually it gave way to a hole.


Eventually, the sagging bottom caused stress on the corners and the open edge on the bottom began to send cracks up the sides. It was time to throw it away.

  • Trash Day #1 – Dragged the empty, broken garbage can to the curb with it’s lid locked to the top and stood it next to its brand new replacement. The next morning after pick-up, the garbage inside the new replacement garbage can was gone but both the broken garbage can and the new replacement garbage can were still there.

  • Trash Day #2 – Dragged the empty, broken garbage can back to the curb with the new replacement garbage can but this time I turned the broken garbage can upside down to reveal the dilapidated bottom. The next morning… both cans… still there.

  • Trash Day #3 – Dragged the broken garbage can back to the curb with the newer garbage can and placed the broken garbage can -- with the lid stuffed inside -- on TOP of the newer garbage can. The next day… yep... both cans still there.

  • Trash Day #4 –  Dragged the broken garbage can to the curb… again… with tin snips. I cut the already shredded plastic can into unrecognizable pieces and buried the parts into the sealed trash bag inside of the newer garbage can and propped the now completely unnecessary lid of the now dismembered garbage can on top of the locked lid of the newer garbage can. The next day… the contents of the newer garbage can -- including the confettied pieces of the broken garbage can, which I had cleverly hidden inside the sealed garbage bag -- had finally been hauled away… but the now unnecessary lid of the now removed garbage can was on the ground propped neatly against the newer yet now empty garbage can... Sigh...


On December 28, 2016, the Charlotte Observer reported that the City of Charlotte "had announced a significant change in recycling bin rules" the previous week (you know, during the biggest trash pick-up weeks of the year... right before Christmas when thousands of boxes were going to be hauled curbside after all the presents had been opened), but there had been "some problems with the rollout." (Government bureaucrats impose a new rule before devising a plan to implement the plan... Bet no one saw that coming.)

"The change: Beginning immediately, all cardboard must be torn into pieces no larger than 18x18 inches before being put into curbside recycling bins. Also, cardboard should not be folded."


"The problem: Other than a few Twitter messages and a Christmas day Facebook post, the city hasn’t appeared to have made much effort to get the message out. Judging by our non-scientific peek at recycling bins around Charlotte this week, few residents seem to have gotten the memo about the 18-inch mandate."

"The new guidelines say tear cardboard in 18-inch pieces," Charlotte resident Camille Coers replied in a letter to the editor on January 3, 2017.


"Really? Since I’m not the Incredible Hulk," Coers baulked, "that is a bit beyond me. And at 69, I don’t see myself down on the garage floor wielding a razor knife around an 18-inch pattern on cardboard."


But “the change is to ensure that all bins are emptied during the collection,” the city’s social media account explained.


"How about starting with a publicity/educational effort on how to avoid cardboard blockage in recycle containers?" the clearly wise Ms. Coers suggested. 


"Come on, CharMeck," Coers challenged, "give your fellow citizens a little credit that if alerted to a problem and given realistic solutions, cooperation could follow."


Never met Ms. Coers but I really like the way she thinks.


At 69, I'll bet Ms. Coers remembers the good old days, when she use to just be able to throw something away.


Then again, she probably remembers the even better old days, when things use to be made to last and you never had to throw much away to begin with.


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