Friday, August 25, 2006

Recycling etiquette

I went to the McIntire Road Recycling Center today. I'm there at least twice a week, since a household of six people goes through a lot of cereal boxes and milk jugs.
Generally, the recycling center is a happy place. Everyone there has the air of someone who is feeling virtuous---Look at me! I am modern and enlightened! I recycle!---and people who feel they are behaving virtuously are generally cheerful. I do have a tiny recycling center etiquette tip to pass along. As you know—because I'm sure we've all been there—the typical procedure is to climb a short flight of steps to a platform and toss your paper or cardboard into open hatches at the top of enormous green bins. Usually there are several open hatches to a bin. The problem is that some people stop at the first open hatch and block the entire platform while they toss their paper into the bin, while other people wait at the bottom of the steps. If other people are waiting to toss their stuff, is it so hard to move down to one of the other hatches so that more than one person at a time can unload their paper? Because it drives me crazy to have to stand at the bottom of the steps and wait because one person has blocked the entire platform with him/herself and giant boxes of cardboard. The recycling center is a happy place, but that does not mean I want to spend the entire day there.
Speaking of recycling, why can't all this stuff be picked up at the curb? We visited friends in Manchester, NH—a town generally more backward than Charlottesville—and people there are issued huge trash-sized recycling receptacles with lids, into which they can toss all bottles, cans, papers, cardboard and plastic and it is collected at the curb once a week. When we lived in Buffalo, paper/cardboard and plastics/glass/cans were collected on alternate weeks. The only thing we couldn't recycle were pizza boxes, which has made me furtive about recycling pizza boxes here in C'ville.
One day, a couple of years ago, I threw some pizza boxes into the “corrugated” bin at the recycling center and the attendant asked me if they were empty. At least that's what I think he asked me—he had a strong accent. I told him, yes, they were empty, and he responded by shaking his head and saying, “No good. No good.” I gaped at him, wondering what I was supposed to do, and he launched into a long speech about something I could not understand. His manner was genial, and so I nodded and murmured, and pretended to comprehend. The man finished his speech with a loud guffaw of laughter. Relieved that everything seemed to be working out after all, I laughed too, at which point the man stopped, and with diction that was suddenly as clear as the Queen's said, “You haven't understood a single word I've said, have you?” I admitted that I hadn't, and offered to climb into the bin and take out my pizza boxes, but he said it wasn't necessary.
Still, the people who run the recycling center make it very clear what you can't recycle, and I've never seen a sign saying “NO pizza boxes,” so I continue to recycle ours, but I try to do so when there's no attendant watching.

Business: Charlottesville High School Orchestra is having another car wash Saturday, 10-2, to raise money to help send the orchestra to London in April. This one will be held up at the Hollymead Town Center, near the Harris Teeter. So, if you're in the area and have a dirty car, consider stopping by.


  1. Can you please call me today? I'm doing a story on "green" etiquette and this post cracked me up!

    Gail Rosenblum
    Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

  2. You are a great orator. I like your writing style. it reminds me of mine.