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Monday, September 8, 2008

LA Recycling and not knowing how good i have it


As I posted a few weeks back we were back east visiting relatives for a bit.  As is often the case, you can learn a lot about your specific environment simply by being out of it and this trip was no different.  


I was helping my mom make dinner one night and as she was opening some plastic containers I noticed that she was throwing them in the garbage.  I pulled them out (in order to bring them home with me, but also as a way of making a point) and in a way that only a son who thinks that he is always right can say to a mom who is used to a son who thinks that he is always right said "Mom, you have to recycle these things, you can't throw them in the garbage, it's horrible."  At which point my mom said, in a way that a mom can say to a son who thinks that he is always right but rarely is "Of course I know that but those are not number on or number two and we don't recycle those here."

And that's when it hit me.  I sort of stepped out of myself for a second and watched as the virtual cinematic camera that can be my brain zoomed into my shocked expression as the music from Psycho payed in the background.

It suddenly made me realize how lucky we have it here in SoCal.  Ya see, recycled numbers 3-7 go in the garbage back where they live, not because they are not being cognizant, but because the government doesn't recycle anything but 1 and 2.  Quite shocking.

Here in LA, we are blessed to have the following things be taken from the curb for recycling (and in one bin might i add):

  • Clean styrofoam and other polystyrene products
  • glass bottles and jars
  • aluminum beverage cans
  • tin and metal food cans
  • aerosal and paint cans (empty and dry)
  • all plastic marked 1-7
  • all plastic bags and film bags
  • all clean paper
  • cardboard and corrugated boxes
  • metal and plastic hangars
  • aluminum foil and trays
I've always taken this for granted but having stepped outside my surroundings for a bit realized how truly easy we have it compared to most.  Quite an eye opener.

For more info on LA recycling, check out this site.

Dave

18 comments:

hillary said...

I know how you feel... in Orlando, where my mom lives (and where I grew up), they can only recycle newspapers -- no other kind of paper. Can you believe it? It's always a shock to go to throw something in her kitchen trash and it's full of stuff like envelopes and junk mail. (To her credit, she always saves paper to print on the other side, but still!)

Dave said...

Crazy. You should sign her up for greendimes. Get rid of a bunch of that junk mail.

dave

hillary said...

Good idea, re Greendimes! Catalog Choice is another good one.

I was just on the city of Orlando's DPW website, and apparently they do offer paper and cardboard recycling -- but you have to take it to one of 5 dropoff locations. Can't imagine many people are going to do that, and having to drive your stuff to a dropoff location isn't exactly good for the environment. (Orlando is awful in terms of urban/suburban sprawl -- I think my mom is, at best, a 20-30 minute drive from one of the dropoff places.)

Remember when Bloomberg shut down glass/plastic recycling in NYC because of what he claimed were budgetary problems? It's insane that anyone would consider that an acceptable way to solve some short-term financial issues.

Dave said...

Insanity allright. If your mom is game, ask her to write a letter to her local rep telling them that she'd recycle paper at home but instead is sending it to landfills which in the long run costs the city more money.

dave

UxCritter said...

Great article! Funny commentary too! I too wrote an article about recycling in my june 4th blog post. I was away from home and was shocked at what I discovered in other areas too.

hillary said...

Welp, my mom's not a citizen and she's not too into the political activism, but I'll make the suggestion. Or, you know, just send it on her behalf. :)

Kate said...

Yeah, living here in our mutual hometown still, I have to say that it kills me, simply kills me to throw out the yogurt containers. I've never, ever understood it. We at least buy large tubs of the stuff and portion into re-usable containers for the kids' lunches.

I was just happy when we started being able to recycle cereal box cardboard a few years ago. I am pleased to say that we are down to about one bag of "trash" every week. We compost. I bring home everything I use for meals at work and recycle and put out one bag of trash, one overflowing bin of recycling and two or three bags of paper/cardboard most weeks. Of course now I drop that one weeny bag into a 72-gallon barrel, which is pretty hilarious.

yolanda said...

Up here in Saskatchewan there's very little DIY recycling. You can pay a company of sorting nazis to haul away a little bit more stuff, but on your own you can only move beverage cartons, tin cans, paper, and hazardous waste (once annual depot for latter)
Trust me, you in So Cal have it VERY good. As it is my trash is almost exclusively plastic and glass jars and batteries. It's gotten even more humiliating to see myself tossing these things since finding this blog. ~sigh~

trying4two99 said...

question? Maybe you can help me here, but why can we throw out soiled diapers, but I can't throw my human waste from our camping trip in the garbage?? Isn't this a double standard??

Dave said...

Hey Yolanda,
Don't let it get you down, you can't control what you can't control. That said, why not start a letter writing campaign, or better yet e-campaign and try to get your local government to step up to the plate. Also, the smarter choices you make in the first place will lessen what you need to toss to the landfill. Sounds like your head is in the right place, you just need your local official to catch up.

Consume Less, Conserve More!!!!

Dave

Dave said...

Good question on the diapers. i'll have to check. My suspicion is that when you throw out diapers you need to wrap them up in a plastic bag but I'm not sure. I'll see what i find out and get back to you.

Consume Less, Conserve More!!!

Dave

Serena said...

Funny you mention this....I live in the DC Metro Area (Montgomery Co) and they've got an awesome recycling program here. But in my hometown of Hagerstown, only 1 hour away, recycling doesn't even EXIST county-wide the way it does in Montgomery Co!! WTF?? Here in Mont Co we have recycling door-to-door, and everyone is given little blue bins. In Hagerstown, I see my family throw tons of stuff away, without even a second glance. I even tried to get my family to start their own recycling bins and take it a HALF MILE down the road to where there's a big recycling dumpster with compartments for various recyclables....and...umm....that was a year ago and they still haven't done it. It's sickening....

Anyhow, Dave, I love your challenge. I heard you on the Dr. Oz XM show, and was very intrigued. I know I could do my part of reducing....but I at LEAST recycle everything possible. We're in a 2BR condo and after 1 week, my little laundry closet is STUFFED full of recycleables! More power to you for being able to hold on to stuff for *52* weeks! LOL

robin said...

i live in a community that only recycles 1 and 2 plastic, but i do notice my neighbors put 5 and 6 plastic in their bins...i always wonder what happens to it.

5 and 6 would be useful enough...3,4, and 7 would be pipe dreams. i try not to buy anything with plastic # larger than 2, but it is hard...

robin said...

i live in a community that only recycles 1 and 2 plastic, but i do notice my neighbors put 5 and 6 plastic in their bins...i always wonder what happens to it.

5 and 6 would be useful enough...3,4, and 7 would be pipe dreams. i try not to buy anything with plastic # larger than 2, but it is hard...

esther said...

yes, that's what I thought, you guys juste recycle more than we do, and still, visiting other (english) blog, I find that we are much better over here. But still, I don't know what to do with thos non-recyclble items...tough question!

Dave said...

Hey Robin,
Simply put, it ends up in the trash. Depending on your community, either the workers or the machines separate them out and anything other than the numbers they take, end up in the trash. This creates more work for them so you are better off tossing it yourself, or better yet, avoiding it in the first palce.

Consume less, Conserve More!!!!

dave

Molly said...

Not to be Miss Debbie Downer or anything, but you can extend the concept of no such thing as throwing something "away" to recycling. Just like garbage doesn't really go away when it's thrown away (it just goes to a landfill), the stuff you put in your recycling bin isn't necessarily recycled, even in SoCal. I've never toured an LA recycling plant, and this isn't the kind of thing they publish, but unless the market for recycled plastic is good, even legitimately recyclable stuff like PET and HDPE plastics (#1&2) often gets landfilled because they can't sell it for more than it costs to recycle. Virgin plastic is, sadly, often cheaper. It's totally great that your recycling company will accept #3-6, but don't assume that they'll always actually recycle it. Even if they sometimes recycle it, when the market is good, companies won't necessarily do it 365 days a year. Aluminum is basically the only thing that is ALWAYS financially feasible for recycling, for all the reasons you listed about how horrible aluminum mining is.

Anyway, I think it's totally great what you're doing. I'm a former Compact-er (the thrift stores here just weren't good enough to maintain it) and am in the process of cancelling trash pickup for my family of 2 adults + dog. Keep up the good work!

Molly
Richmond, VA

Dave said...

Hey Molly,
You're not being Debbie Downer, more like Molly Realistic. I've said this since day 1, recycling is a crutch and shouldn't be considered the best thing to do. Non-consumption or less consumption is optimal.

I've toured a few plants and they seem to recycle (actually downcycle) all that they say but of course there's no way to check.

Thanks for the note and keeping things honest!

Consume Less, Conserve More!!!!

Dave