I'm not actually that smart. If you read my post about how I can forget things right in front of my door, you probably already agree with that statement. Or maybe this story will convince you: Last weekend after a road trip, I went to go pull my bags out of the trunk and in the process I lost my car keys. I knew they couldn't have gone far because we had literally just pulled up to my building. I checked my pockets repeatedly, checked in the car, emptied my purse, looked under the car, under the seats, in the trunk... I was panicking thinking that some how I had dropped them, not heard them fall (recall my ability to go temporarily deaf, blind and unbalanced from the post cited above), and then someone walking by had stolen them thinking I would not notice. Well, they were actually in the key slot for the trunk because I had used them to unlock my trunk. Yes, literally right in front of my face.
Despite the fact that I should probably not be allowed out in public without a chaperone who can help me find my lost items and keep me from hating on everything that crosses my path, I have managed to figure out the complex system that is recycling. I know it's tough, deciding whether something is garbage, paper or plastic/glass/metal, but if I have mastered this concept, I'm sure the people of the world can, too. I'm not sure why it is so difficult to tell the difference between paper and plastic, but it seems to be a common problem in society.
Here is an example of a recycling fail that made me particularly angry. Last night I went to empty my recycling into the communal recycling bin in my building. There is one person on my floor who does not understand the concept of recycling. I often walk in the little garbage room to find a Trader Joe's paper bag full of recyclable and non-recyclable items all jumbled together. Used paper plates, newspapers, wrappers, milk jugs, water bottles, toilet paper rolls... just all in one bag. Last night I took a little peek in the bag as I was adjusting it to make room for my own plastic/glass/metal things, and I found a full, unopened container of buttermilk. The issues I have with this finding are numerous. First of all, that buttermilk could have been used to make delicious pancakes. Secondly, milk/juice containers like that go in paper recycling. And thirdly, you can't recycle a full container of something. Okay? You can't recycle the actual buttermilk, just the container it is in. You can't take old buttermilk and melt it down to make recycled buttermilk. It doesn't work that way. It would have taken about 30 seconds to open the container, pour it down the sink (or into pancake batter which would have been my choice but whatever), give the container a little rinse, and put it in the paper recycling.
Recycling fails always make me angry. I just don't understand why it seems so complicated to people. You can look up specific information for your town which describes exactly what you can (eg. newspaper) and cannot (eg. used paper plates) recycle. They even make little charts with pictures on them. But perhaps the person described above needs just a little more help. Perhaps some of you out there reading this need some help with your own recycling. In order to help you, I created a simple little test so you can tell the difference between the two main types of recycling. Have someone hurl the item in question at your head. If it hurts a lot, put it in the plastic/glass/metal bag. If it doesn't hurt so much, put it in paper. If you live alone I would be happy to assist you with this project by throwing your recyclables at your head. It's the least I can do. Just let me find my keys...
Update (July 29, 2010): Last night the recycling bin contained a whole plastic plant, with the ceramic pot and wicker basket included. I think it was from the same geniuses who brought us the buttermilk incident, but I have little to no proof. I have since drafted a poster instructing people what they can (magazines! empty boxes! soda cans!) and cannot (Light bulbs! Buttermilk! FAKE PLANTS!) recycle.