I never thought I’d live long enough to see garbage get so complicated. When I was a kid, a big truck with two guys standing on the back bumper stopped in front of our house. In the time it takes you to eat a grape, the two guys jumped down, tossed off the lids of our rusted and dented trash cans, poured the loose garbage into the back of the truck, dropped the cans on the curb and moved on down the line. Easy peasy.
I wasn’t real sure what happened to the garbage after that, because there were no documentaries on waste disposal. Dad did take Dennis and me to the dump once to get rid of some old shingles. After that visit, I assumed the garbage was consumed by seagulls.
Skip forward a few decades and I’m living in a new house inside the Conroe city limits, with a girl I knew from the eighth grade. In the big city, you don’t need to buy garbage cans. They give you two, thick plastic, 90-gallon refuse containers with wheels and lids that swing open and flop shut.
The entire garbage collection process is conducted by one guy or lady who drives the truck and operates the giant claw that does all the lifting and tossing. It’s not as fast as two guys riding a bumper, but it’s less labor intensive and more expensive.
One of our new trash holders is all green, and the other is green and yellow. That’s the one used for recyclables. I’ve learned a lot about recycling since we left our old place. I used to just recycle paper. Now, you can recycle hammers. I think. They won’t take large pieces of metal, but the metal part of my hammer is, what, four inches? I’ll have Kay measure it later.
I do appreciate the City’s program for the collection of recyclables. The only drawback to recycling is the fact that all items must be cleaned. I started off recycling cottage cheese containers, but with the amount of water, elbow grease and paper towels it took me to clean a quart tub of the small curd, I thought it not worth the resources and effort. A bean dip can? That’s a sliced finger waiting to happen. Believe me, I know. Not from washing the can, but from trying to salvage all the dip inside the lip of the opened can.
Plastic bags? DON”T put them in the recycle bin! You cannot make lawn furniture or ice chests from recycled plastic bags. I went to YouTube to see how all of the recyclable trash was sorted. First off, there is a wide conveyer belt carrying piles of bottles, cans, newspapers, smashed boxes, plastic bags and hammers. Standing on each side of the conveyor belt are four big guys trying to grab any plastic bags they see. You’d have to slow the conveyor belt down to a crawl before they could find even half of the bags.
Eventually the bags clog up the gears and giant rollers that hurry the other stuff down the line. Every couple of hours the conveyor belt is shut down so men can crawl into the machine with knives to remove all the plastic bags that were missed and ended up in huge bands wadded around the gears and rollers. One can only guess how many thumbs are lost in that process.
So, don’t put plastic bags in the recycle trash bin. And don’t drop them off at the store until you’ve removed any paper receipts and cleaned out any goo. The YouTube guy told me that over half of the bags collected at grocery stores are too dirty to recycle. We used to send ‘em to China, before they got all capitalist on us. Now, they won’t even mess with ‘em.
The only thing that can be done with used plastic bags is melt ‘em, turn ‘em into plastic pellets, and then melt ‘em again and make new plastic bags out of ‘em. Maybe one day, the process will become more cost effective. Until then, we need to bring our own totes into the grocery store for bagging purposes.
See what I mean about the complications associated with trash? It used to be so easy to get rid of stuff. Plus it made it easier to get Dad something for Father’s Day. We’d pool our finances and get him a new garbage can. It was the gift that kept on giving… for about a month. Then the can became part of the trash.
Mark can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. An archive of Hayter’s articles can be found at http://markhayterscolumn.blogspot.com