The Luv Doc: Unrecyclables

Keeping the environment clean is a dirty goddamned business

The Luv Doc: Unrecyclables

Hi there, Luv Doc!
My husband tries to recycle everything – even things that clearly can't be recycled. I take pity on the person (or machine?) that has to sort through our unrecyclables. We have the smallest trashcan available (we got a rebate for a composter to get it) and a tiny baby who creates a lot of diaper garbage, so I appreciate that he's freeing up space in our trashcan. Should I force the issue and maybe put a helpful diagram of what is and isn't recyclable or let this one go?
- Pop-Tart wrappers don't go in the blue can

Rest assured, Pop-Tart, that somewhere far down the recycling chain, there is an underpaid worker who is ass-deep in all kinds of completely disgusting shit (and you may take that literally in certain instances) that people have knowingly and unknowingly tried to recycle. It seems that a lot of people somehow believe that there is some recycling super-sorting machine or perhaps a slave army of recycling robots that sifts through all the drek, but direct experience tells me otherwise.

Back when I was a doe-eyed Okie fresh off the turnip truck, I spent a week as a day laborer at an aluminum recycling center. My job was to separate bottles and cans (just clap your hands) as they came down a conveyor belt. Sounds like a fun way to earn some coin and do your bit for the environment, doesn’t it? Much easier than scrubbing oily otters or chasing down spotted owls, golden-cheeked warblers, and snail darters. Easier yes, but disgusting. If I may quote the esteemed folk poet Blake Shelton from his song, “Boys 'Round Here,” it was, “Chewin’ tobacco, chewin’ tobacco, chewin’ tobacco, spit!” Nix that last comma and you have a good idea of what I was swimming in for about a week.

Keeping the environment clean is a dirty goddamned business – and that’s before you start paying off the mobsters, legislators, and third world toxic waste dump sites. My guess is that recycling companies aren’t making obscene piles of cash, and even if they are, the person who is sifting through the contents of your blue bin isn’t seeing any of it. Making his or her job harder might make your life easier, but it also kind of makes you an asshole.

So, to answer your question: Yes, a helpful diagram sounds like a splendid idea. Your husband may feel a little bitterness and resentment, but that will only help him sympathize with the person who is sorting his recycling. And lastly, given the fact that your garbage is full of baby poo bombs, I highly recommend a gracious tip for the garbageman, as well. He knows where you live.

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Dan Hardick

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