Monday, August 30, 2010

Blue Box Lessons

Steve and I have always prided ourselves on having the neatest vehicle in town.


I mean we are ministers after all, and thusly we therefore and forthwith believe that we should do our utmost to set forth a shining example of conscientious, clutter-free cleanliness.


We never allow disorder anywhere near our charmed and charming chaos-free existence.




Unless, of course, we happen to be taking a trip to the recycling center. Unless, of course, we happen to not (yet) be very organized with our recycling routine. Unless, of course, we’re way overdue for said trip.

Even though Steve and I had a lot of busy bustling around to do while getting everything loaded, would you believe I still actually found the time to get misty-eyed over a miscellaneous blue box left over from our latest move? A blue box with this writing on it? In the penmanship of my very own daughter? I am such a mom. (Sniff.)


But all sentiment aside! Time for business! Chop, chop!

When we arrived at the recycling area, Steve strode purposefully about doing Important Recycling World Reconnaissance.


When the purposeful strolling was done, he prepared to share his knowledge with his trusty sidekick who was completely new to the rudiments of recycling. (He had been there several times already so he was a pro.)


And I learned a lot.

I learned that there are actually places to drop off oil filters. And anti freeze.


I learned that there is a designated spot for oyster, clam and mussel shells. I mean, who knew? (I’m assuming you only see those classifications near the ocean.)


I learned that recycling just one little ol’ gallon milk jug every week can add up to some mighty impressive numbers.



I learned that about 100 million plastic water bottles end up in landfills every day and it can take over 700 years for a plastic bottle to decompose. It was a very good feeling to see these particular bottles being recycled instead; I must say, I felt quite proud to be a part of that whole recycling cycle.


I learned that glass can be ground up and used to cover parking lots. It was unexpectedly beautiful, sitting and shimmering in the sun.



Now if you really want to know the truth, I was prepared to go to the recycling center and walk around thinking, “Yuk, yuk, yuk.”

Instead, I felt inspired. I felt inspired by the fact that every single water bottle or yogurt container that I bring here—instead of dumping into the trash—will make a really big difference.

And not just to me right now but also to the sweet owner of that blue cardboard box --many, many years down the road.


After Steve and I had been been hard at work for a while, he suddenly felt compelled to take my picture.


Since I was unattractively sweating and horrifyingly free of make-up, I threatened him with his very life if he came even one step closer with that camera.

Happily, he backed off.

And lived to recycle another day.



“GS from Canada” left a thought-provoking comment a couple days ago when I referred briefly to the fact that we’ve been trying to start recycling.

She wrote, “This may sound strange, but I've been thinking a lot about your decision to start recycling and the implication that recycling isn't collected at the curb in your area. I'm honestly a bit surprised because because you live in such an environmentally sensitive area. You've made me really curious about what is common garbage collection practice in NC or in the US.

I live in a part of Canada where we have a pretty elaborate and mandatory curbside recycling and composting program. This means that our family only puts out one small bag of actual garbage each week. All the organic waste and recyclable materials are also collected for us. The whole system is mandatory and only clear and color-coded transparent garbage bags are allowed so that the collectors can enforce it. I LOVE this system -- aside from the environmental benefits, garbage is much less stinky and disgusting.

I wonder if other readers have anything similar where they live. Fascinating stuff!!!”

GS, thanks so much for your comment. I must say that it’s truly amazing and admirable that your family only puts out one small bag of garbage each week. Way to go!

We actually do have a service here in Manteo where you can just throw all your recyclables into a container and have it picked up at the curb every week. However, since that costs around $50 a month we thought we’d save the money and do it ourselves.

How about the rest of you? Chime in with your own experiences from where you live. Or if you want to share the reasons you recycle, or you have helpful tips about recycling, list those, too. This is a great discussion to get going.


In other news, I’m headed out (yet again) for my five-hour, round trip journey to the plastic surgeon for another post-op visit and the removal of my very own personal stitches.

Who knew Mondays could be so much fun?

20 Had Something To Say (Just click here!):

Becky, UK said...

In the UK, we have recycling bins that are colour coded - we have 2 general sulo bins that are quite tall - black for general waste and grey for garden waste such as grass clippings, hedge trimmings etc. Then we have smaller blue and red containers - blue for tins, cans, plastic and glass and red for paper waste such as newspapers, envelopes etc. On top of that, we are encouraged to shred personal documents and reuse them (I use them to provide bedding for my rabbit).

The bins are collected weekly, but in rotating cycles, so one week only the general black sulo bin is collected, and the next week it's the recycling bins' turn. This helps to encourage you to recycle more, as the black bin has to hold 2 weeks worth of waste and obviously if you overfill it, there's nowhere to put it. You have to pay the local council if you want any additional bins, however, the normal services are free and counted as part of the council tax we pay in Britain.

It's different in different areas of the country, however. Some places such as big towns and cities have green bins for garden waste, and some places also have compartmentalised bins for different waste objects.

Now, time for lunch.....

Unknown said...

Here in Madison, WI we have to recycle. We get a brown bin for trash and a green bin for all recyclable items. The cost is built right into our tax bill...granted if something happens to either of our garbage/recycle bins we have to pay $50 (I think) to replace it. They are picked up by a robotic arm that swings out from the truck so the driver never gets out and touches the garbage..unless he accidentally knocks over the can :). Our 2 year old LOVES watching the garbage guys. We also get trash picked up every Monday and then everyother Monday we can put out the recycle bin along with the trash bin. I never know what week we are on so I just cheat and look at what the neighbors are doing :).

Anonymous said...

For as long as I can remember we have recycled in Sonoma county. When I moved to Sonoma over eight years ago I was pleased to find they had a large black yard waste can, a large blue recycle can (no sorting required, they do it), and I got a small gray can for other waste. If I didn't have three inside cats I would hardly ever fill the gray can, as it is I only need to put that one out every two to three weeks. The yard waste and recycle cans can be put out weekly and are free. The only one that goes out weekly lately is the yard waste, since retiring I have lots more time to get the yard in order. I save all my CRV soda cans and plastic bottled water containers for Marey. She turns them in for money and uses that for whatever charity project she is working on at the time. That's a win/win I think! When I see her in October my car will look much like your van!

I am considering starting a compost pile in the yard, but doubt that being a family of one I would have enough to feed it. I am also looking into getting something here at home to filter my tap water, eliminating so many plastic bottles.

Hoping today is relatively pain free and the end of so many doctor appointments,

Cindy from Sonoma

SuziQCat said...

I live in Durham, NC and we have curbside pickup for the trash and the recycling. We just throw all the recycling (bottles, cans, paper, etc...) into one large blue trash can size container and wheel it to the street every other week. Ours is always full. They take our green trash can weekly.

Anonymous said...


We also live in Canada. Where we live they do not pick up our garabage or "blue boxes". They do not even have then way back in the woods for that matter.

If we wanted our garabage picked up a small pick up truck would do it once a week for a fee. I have no idea what that fee even is!

Nor does a "blue box" truck make it into our neck of the woods.

We truck all of the garabage and "blue box" items to the "dump" about once a month, this is included in our taxes :). At our dump there is a recycle station as well. It looks alot like your. So we go around the dump and drop items off.

I guess diferent parts of Canada is set up different as well.

I am glad to see we are ALL doing our part one way or another. it is amazing how stuff adds up!!

Angela said...

I live in big city in Canada. We pay a monthly fee for garbage and recycling pickup. This is included with our water, sewage, and electrical bill. The pickup is weekly for both items.

We pay a deposit for bottles so use the bottle depots. We also have eco centers. The Eco centers is where we go to recycle electronic items. All electronic items in Alberta have an eco tax on them which pays for the eco centers.

Edmonton no longer has a landfill. All the garbage is sorted and recycled. Each year the Edmonton facility recycles $1.2 Million of plastic bottles that goes back into their budjet.

The site also has a composting section as well. One of friends works there.

The items that can not be recycled goes to someone elses landfill. That is the part I think is funny. The city talks about how 'advanced' their garbage disposal system is yet all they are doing is shipping their garbage to someone else. But I do have to admit... the amount of garbage we do ship is not a lot.

For our limit we are allowed 2 garbage cans weighing 50lbs each, and unlimited recycling and composting. Recycling is Blue and composting is either yellow or clear.

MaryH said...

In the community I live in outside of St. Louis, Mo we have a fabulous curbside recycling service. As part of our fee for other trash sevice from Waste Management, we are provided a very large container and we can throw all recycleable items in the container and it is picked up once a week with other trash. My daughter and I sometimes don't even have enough to fill one trash bag full of trash and/or garbage after we have recycled everything else. We have an even larger container for trash and it is pitifully empty and sometimes doesn't even make it to the curb on a weekly basis - the recycle bin however HAS to be at the curb every week or we would be drowning in our recycleables - is that a word? Anyway, about a year or so ago my daughter and I stopped buy bottled water and have one of those filter pitchers in the refrigerator and have purchased reusable plastic water bottles - I am so happy when I can just stroll past all that bottled water at the store and know I am not spending money on a "free" item and not contributing to more plastic in the environment. When you really start to examine all that can be recycled that you would normally throw in the trash, it is astounding. Yes, it takes energy to make the recycled items into something new or different, but the point is we are keeping the toxins out of the air and land that are causing so many diseases and other health issues - we may never understand the complete impact of our attempts to control our waste products, but hopefully, as you said Becky, our children will and our children's children and so forth. I am one who just gets so upset when someone says it is just too difficult to recycle - it will be difficult to live one day if we all don't take this seriously. Thank you for your post - keep up the good work and you will love the result of your efforts.

Grace said...

This is my first time visiting your blog. Great post on recycling; great sense of humor about being photographed with no make-up. ;-) I look forward to reading more.

becky m said...

i live in buffalo,ny, well actually amherst and we get a blue box,a few in our case, and put all of it in there and they pick it up on garabage day for free. the city of buffalo pays a garabage fee in their taxes i want to say. and there are neighboring towns that it is hit or miss. like my job. i work at a group home and we don't recycle which in our case would be a very smart idea seeing all the stuff we go thur, not sure if they just dont want to pick up at our house or if it needs to be requested.We have special sheduled pick ups for our garbage. though since u now get a nickel return on all plastic bottles,well almost, we turned one of our garbage can in the house into a recylce thing. and when it gets full we take one of our guys to return them.

Anonymous said...

We just switched from unlimited everything to automated waste and recycle bins. We don't have to separate the recycle stuff, but we have to take the lids off the bottles and plastic containers. Right now the yard waste goes in the waste bin, but I imagine sometime down the road, it will be separate. There is a fee attached to the water and sewer bill. The powers that be are still fiddling with that. It's really not a difficult, but you would be surprised how much controversy this has caused.
Jan (Toledo, OH)

Anonymous said...

P.S. I thought you southern belles glistened or at worst perspired. and that we Yankees sweat. :-)

Jan again

Anonymous said...

I live in Knoxville, TN in the county. If I lived in the city, I would get recycling collection at the curb as part of my city taxes. Since I live in the county with lower taxes, I have the option of paying for curb side recycling or just taking it myself to the recycling center. I choose to save around $50 a month and tote my own since I drive by the center several times a week. I also compost my organic trash and use it to feed the flowers and vegetables. Anna

Anonymous said...

I live in California. We can have the recycling picked up at the curb on trash day, but I prefer to take it to the recycling center myself. My reasons are selfish though, why should I pay to have it "picked up" when I can make a few dollars by dropping it off myself. I live alone, so it takes awhile to accumulate a good amount (it has to say CA RECYCLABLE on it at drop off), but when I do get to it, I usually walk away with close to enough money for a tank of gas!!

Pat in CA

whiterecluse said...

It has varied depending on where I've lived. In Wilmington, my parents shelled out the cost for the curbside pickup, and they had the colored bins where you just stick all your recyclables, and they were collected weekly.

In Chapel Hill (well, Chatham County), part of our taxes included the right to dump at the recycling center, so we just went ahead and did so. My husband and I use very little packaged food, so we'd only have to go once every couple of weeks or so.

Here in Polk County, we can drive to the recycling center, but as my in-laws have curbside (and live down the road) and we still generate very little garbage, we usually just combine. It's picked up weekly. My husband and I separate out our recyclables, however, and we take them to the recycling center ourselves.

Nowhere that we've lived has required composting. More's the pity!

Denise said...

Here in NYC recycling is mandatory. I don't know how it works for private homeowners, although I do know it's free; trash collection is paid with city taxes.

In apartment buildings, you can find the recycling bins in one of the common areas of the building. In my building we have bins for metal, glass, plastic and paper products in the compactor rooms on each floor. In my Mum's building, the recycling bins are in the basement so everyone has to bring their stuff downstairs.

There are usually a few city-wide events every year where you can hand over old electronics/computers to be recycled, and a lot of stores and restaurants have their own programs to reuse goods, too. For instance, instead of throwing things away, a lot of restaurants and supermarkets will donate their unused food and grocery items to City Harvest and other programs to feed underprivileged or homeless New Yorkers.

Anonymous said...

(I hope this is not repeated as I lost a post earlier today!)
Thanks for all your comments on my question, everyone. It has been really interesting for me to compare the differences and it seems like while most people have the option of recycling, it is not always mandatory in most districts. That is a bit of a surprise to me, but I would have to assume that things are headed in that direction.

It also seems like there are very few places where organic (food and yard) waste is collected separately. Even though we eat leftovers and try not to waste food in our family, it is amazing the volume of organic waste we produce each week. We would easily double our garbage output if organic waste were not collected curbside. If you have the option to participate in this kind of program, I strongly recommend it.

Becky complemented the fact that out family only produces one small bag of actual garbage each week. I don't want to mislead anyone though: We produce just as much waste as any family. It is simply that most of it is diverted from the landfill. I wish we consumed less and produced less waste!!! That is really the key!

Someone else mentioned the resistance that these recycling programs create where they introduced and required. I totally agree. I was not an easy convert, but I could never go back. Even when I travel, I have a hard time not separating garbage!

Anyway, thanks for all your comments everyone. It has been fun.

PS -- Thinking of everyone in the path of Hurricane Earl. We are in the path too here in Nova Scotia. UGH!

Anonymous said...

I forgot to sign my post at 10:29!!

GS in Canada

Anonymous said...

Where I live (Ithaca, NY), recycling is required and covered by local taxes; it is picked up every other week. Solid waste is picked up weekly, but you must pay on a per-bag basis: a small (up to 20 lb) bag of trash costs $2.50; a large (35 lb) bag costs $4. You have to buy sheets of "trash stickers" at the grocery store and affix them to the bags you put out for collection. If you haven't got a tag, they won't pick it up. Also, if you try to cheat and put out more trash than the tag covers, they stick a big fat "REJECTED" sticker on it. There's nothing more abject than having your refuse refused!

Karen said...

I live in Hammond, IN, and we have curbside recycling, but its not strictly enforced. More of a "it'd be nice if you did" kind of thing. But don't throw in green bottles, they don't take those. We're not sure why. We just throw everything into one blue bin and leave it at the curb every other week on varying days (depending on the street you live on) and they pick it up. Same with grass clippings, etc. Unfortunately, this does not include apartment complexes. Where I am now, there was a recycling dumpster but apparently no one but me was using it since its now gone. The Chancellor where I work suggested bringing it in to work and putting it in our dumpsters. I might start doing that.

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