The Key to Recycling

Posted on September 12, 2014 under Storytelling with no comments yet


Missing car keys? Rubbish, I say


It’s not that easy being green Having to spend each day the color of the leaves When I think it could be nicer being red, or yellow, or gold Or something much more colorful like that

It’s Not Easy Being Green – Kermit the Frog

People have been recycling for centuries. I grew up in a big family and only the oldest boy or girl got something new to wear.  With eight children in the house, the rest of us got hand me downs … saving the environment one T-shirt at a time.  Except that it was born of economic necessity and back then most things were used over and over until they wore out.  There are many other examples over the centuries of how people have re-used or repurposed household items.

But over the past 25 years or so, recycling has become the centrepiece of waste management programs in virtually every town and city in the developed world. We have been trained to put our food scraps in the composter and to sort all of the other waste.  In our house, like most, we have separate bins for paper products, another for plastics and a third for money backs.  And one for containers that the food bank can use.  Not to mention the indoor and outdoor compost receptacles.  And yes, we even have an old fashioned garbage can for that handful of items that don’t neatly fit into any other category

I should be a pro at this but I recently found out that, despite my best efforts, I had allocated an item in the wrong place. To err is human, to forgive, divine.

Back in the days when I was on Town Council, I was the chair of the recycling committee. I was a greenhorn, for sure.  Several of us toured the province visiting communities who had been doing this for quite some time.  No point in reinventing the wheel.  Of course, our children were getting educated at school about the evils of solid waste dumpsites and were quick to point out transgressions.

If there is one basic law of recycling, it is that the rules are the rules except when they’re not. Just when you have finally figured out where everything should go, when you are a veritable Ph. D in “reduce, reuse and recycle,” you discover an exception that everybody knows about except you.

My wife was away a few weeks ago and I decided to treat myself to some take out, which came in a Styrofoam container. It had the #4 recycling logo on the back.  I dutifully rinsed it in warm water at the conclusion of my meal and fired it in with the plastics.  Styrofoam is not something that enters our house often.

The missus arrived home from a weekend of babysitting, exhausted. In a matter of minutes she had somehow misplaced her car keys.  It took me all of five minutes to discover them, where else, but in the composter.  They had been tossed in there, along with an apple core and a banana peel, as she unloaded the car.  We had a good chuckle and went to bed.

Like one of the Seven Dwarfs, I set out for work on Monday morning, whistling as I went.

When I arrived home for lunch, it was obvious that the garbage police had been to the house. The Styrofoam container had magically transplanted itself from the plastic bin to the kitchen table.  Yogic flying was my first guess.  Emblazoned on the cover of the container was the following: “Styrofoam. Not Recyclable! No! No! No!” A copy of the Eastern Solid Waste Management program rules lay beside it with the words “Styrofoam is always garbage” highlighted in yellow.  There was a P.S. on the side of the packaging: “Do not write a story about this.”

The following text message was sent from yours truly to the recycling policewoman. “Ahem, I got your subtle recycling reminder – you’ll find your keys in the composter.”

I received her reply: “Even Steven!”

It’s really not that easy being green.




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