The American Dilemma and How We Can Fix It


The other day a young man who was a Boy Scout came to my door. He was working on earning a badge by informing his neighbors on the value of recycling our used products which could be turned into something else, thus sparing our landfills of these still useful materials.

I applauded the young man and told him that I was an avid enthusiast of recycling. I also told him that I reused a lot of products before they eventually hit my recycling bin. I explained that I always took cloth bags with me when I went grocery shopping to reduce the number of plastic or paper bags I needed. I think I gave him some encouragement as he left with a youthful smile on his face.

The schedule for recycling (which we pay for as part of our scavenger service) is that these items are collected in one out of the four pickups which occur every two weeks. I frequently head to the dog park early in the morning before the collection occurs, so I have the opportunity to view how many of my neighbors recycle as I drive to the front gate.

I would like to say that all of us take this as a serious social responsibility – but I think the actual number is closer to about sixty percent. (I hope my young Boy Scout friend can reach the remaining forty percent of us in our little community and convert some of those into recyclers).

I have found a use for some of those items (shredded paper, vegetable peels and coffee grounds) which would otherwise go into the recycling bin or into the garbage. I have the luxury of having a back yard so that I can compost these valuable items.

I admit to having the horticultural brown thumb of death. (I can kill off sansevieria, a/k/a/ “Mother-in-law’s tongue,” the most resilient of all plants – even the plastic kind). But I give this compost to my neighbors who are more gifted in the garden than I and have received high compliments from them on its quality.

It does take a little work, adding water, turning the compost drum, trying to get the mixture between “brown and green materials” right. But I find it rewarding. And I look forward to my neighbors’ inquiries in the spring, do you have any compost ready?

Step one in the recycling process is the collection of useful materials. But then we move on to step two. What happens once these items have been collected?

The reason I thought about this was that I had placed two large pieces of Styrofoam in my recycling pile which had contained packets of frozen wheat grass juice that I had ordered from a vendor in Canada. The recycling truck came by and left these on the curb.

I called my scavenger service and asked why these items had not been picked up as I expected they would. The answer I received was, “Yes, Styrofoam is recyclable – but we don’t recycle it. We would need a special piece of equipment to re-utilize it and a large volume of material – so we don’t do it. But if you place it with your “garbage” we will haul it away for you.” (It can then be included in all the stuff we place in our landfills to pollute our environment further).

This scavenger service is the second largest company in the business in the country. And they conveniently have negotiated a twenty year contract with my fair city – so I don’t expect they will get around to purchasing this “special equipment” until their contract comes up for renewal and they have some competitors bidding against them.

I am a strong advocate for business. But I believe that businesses must operate not only with a view to profit – but from a place of conscience. Apparently my local scavenger service has only learned one half of that equation. Shame on them.

 Even though I know that my Styrofoam won’t be recycled by my scavenger service, I am still accumulating it. Those little peanut-like pellets that companies use to fill the space in cardboard boxes are being saved in plastic bags, as are the containers that I have from ordering Chinese food.

If and when my scavenger service gets around to ordering their “special equipment,” I’ll probably have enough accumulated to run their first load.





Comments on: "ON RECYCLING" (6)

  1. Good on you for both recycling and composting, and then writing about it and encouraging others! I wish there were more good citizens like yourself out there doing their part. But it heartens me to read this. One more makes a difference when we all band together!
    I am also having a horrible time throwing out my styrofoam, but it seems no matter where we move, no one takes it. I hang onto until the next move, and then we chuck it. And I hate it.
    I did find a place that takes the styrofoam egg cartons, but not the ones meat are packaged in. Since then, I’ve started buying eggs from the farmer’s market at $3 a dozen. Needless to say, we don’t buy them as often. She takes my egg cartons and reuses them. AND thanks me!
    And those meat containers? No such luck thus far, but there has to be some place out there that takes them. Again, we’re eating less meat now just because of that.
    As for those dreaded take-out containers, we try to eat in more now, but if we eat out, we try to eat INSIDE the restaurant and I bring my own tupperware with me in my oversized purse. It’s actually helped me eat less! As soon as it’s served, I put half of it in the container, and usually have a little room left for a split dessert. The hardest part is remembering the container from the house! I’ve started keeping one in my car, since you never know when you might eat out!
    I’ll keep my eyes open for the syrofoam recycling. Let me know if you find anything first?
    Thanks!! And thanks for saving the environment for the next generation. My hat’s off to you!
    Jennifer from militaryzerowaste

  2. Dear Jennifer,

    Thanks for your comments. I sincerely appreciate them and the fact that you are also actively involved in helping to minimize the impact we all play on the environment. I find it hard to understand that more of us are not involved. I consider that disregarding or failing to nurture our planet as an essential act of violence – which ultimately will come back to haunt us. Sadly, there are far too people like us who view our life on planet earth this way. As you say, everyone of us can make a difference – and that is my purpose in writing this blog. If you and I can show only two people the importance of being responsible, and those two can show two more … we will change the world. That is my hope – and I’m sure yours as well.

    • You made my day! I do believe we can make a difference, and it enlightens me when I find someone out there really trying, and passionate about it as well! I looked through quite a few of your posts. Such a good message, thought-provoking, and well-written. (Sigh.) If only I could clone you!! ha!
      I’m going to stick to that. To show just two people and then they might show two more…
      Positive idea!

      • Thank you for your positive comments and support. Sometimes I feel as though I am Sisyphus, pushing that darn boulder up the hill – only to see it slip to the ground once again. But I am glad that there is at least one other person in this world who cares as much about our environment as I. (And thanks for the dieting tip. That was great). Your words of encouragement will help me soldier on and keep fighting what we both know is the good fight.

      • I’m right there with ya, girl! We’ll do it together!

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