I’ve been quiet lately because the semester has officially begun AND I came down with a killer sinus infection last weekend, but living ethically marches on. I’ll post about my accidental meat-consumption snafu soon (another rookie mistake—I’m trying not to beat myself up about it) but in the meantime, I’ll update about our experience so far with recycling.
So I’ll just go ahead and say that recycling out here is fairly easy—it could be easier, sure—with a couple of caveats. One of these caveats doesn’t even really affect us, but the city of Lawrence does not offer curbside recycling as a city service. There’s a recycling service that one can opt to pay for, and as I understand the monthly fee is pretty small, but again, this doesn’t really affect us since we live in an apartment complex, and thus wouldn’t be eligible for curbside recycling regardless. It’s a change from where I’m from: Hampton Roads has had curbside recycling as a city service since the 90’s, and the charge gets rolled into your water/trash bill. We used to have these dinky little blue SPSA bins, and they updated to full-sized recycling trash-style cans a while back . You could choose not to recycle, obviously, but you’d be paying for it anyway, and they were pretty clear about what they took as recyclables and what they didn’t take. My folks have been recycling at home since it’s been widely available and I remember going on a field trip as a kid to the recycling plant and watching these giant sorting machines. It even looks like my hometown even has this cute little website with tons of information about “being green.”
Lawrence is a significantly smaller town, so I get why they have a smaller operation. The city’s website helpfully lists some information about recycling; there are recycling dumpsters in the parking lots of some of the stores (Dillons on 23rd has them) which take some things but not all recyclables, and the big Wal-Mart Community Recycling Center, while not centrally located, (but the town is tiny, so it’s not a big deal) is pretty accessible. Ryan and I take our stuff to the Wal-Mart Community Recycling Center. It’s nearby and takes pretty much everything, and they are pretty clear about what they won’t take. Our IKEA bags help with our sorting. So far, we haven’t had any real issues.
The one thing I want to complain about here is that for the non-seasoned recycler, it’s sometimes not intuitive or easy to figure out what gets recycled and what doesn’t. It’s cool, there’s a learning curve for anything. We are figuring this stuff out and I’m not afraid of sounding stupid. Glass, newspaper, aluminum cans, office-pak paper; all of these things are obvious. Cardboard, sure, but not pizza boxes, apparently—the cheese contaminates the box (yes, we Googled this before we tried to recycle one of these). No wax-coated cardboard. “Chip board” is sort of a confusing category: cereal boxes, cracker boxes, etc., but every now and again I’ll come across something I’m not sure will fit in this category. Light bulbs can’t be recycled, which seems weird. Some plastic can be recycled; a lot of it can’t, and sometimes it’s hard to figure out from looking at the container without checking the list. So I guess my complaint here is geared toward product manufacturers. It’d be incredibly useful to have packaging which makes it incredibly obvious that the packaging can be recycled. Some packaging tells you it’s recyclable; a lot doesn’t. A lot of packaging glaringly admits that it’s “MADE OF POST-CONSUMER RECYCLED MATERIAL,” which is fantastic. Great. But for those of us still learning, it would be helpful if we had a better system of identifying recyclables quickly. That complaint aside, so far this is definitely one of the easier aspects of our challenge. Committing to recycling is a small lifestyle modification that isn’t terribly time-consuming, especially if you have easy access to the recycling center. Having to drive to the recycling center seems like one of those “damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t” kind of problems. We’re due to make a trip here soon so I’ll take some photos and post them after we go.