String savers now recycle

Published 6:03 pm Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Remember when one drawer of the kitchen cabinet was a repository for pieces of string and other re-usable items in addition to the cooking tools?
When I was a boy during the 30s, everyone seemed to have such a drawer. I was always sent to it for almost anything needed that I could fetch.
I would scratch around in the drawer for the right rubber band, nail, screw, nut, button, hose washer, paper clip, etc. Anything no longer needed, but still usable, was put into that drawer instead of the trash can. “Waste not, want not!” came long before the “green thing” of today.
Everything was merely downgraded progressively until it was used up. A dress shirt soon became an “around the house” shirt, then a “yard work” shirt and finally a painting or “work on the car” shirt, before the buttons were removed (and saved!) to make it a cleaning rag.
The toaster and the radio were taken in for repair in those days; now most such things can be replaced with a better model for less money than repairs cost, even in the rare case that repairs are possible!
It irks me to take a perfectly good scanner or printer to be recycled simply because a driver compatible with the new computer operating system is “unavailable.”
Fran and I work at recycling. We rinse out soft drink cans and flatten them. We run bottles and jars through the dishwasher before they go into the recycle bin. I flatten nearly all the cardboard boxes we get and stack them with the newspapers and magazines. Our recycle volume is about equal to our trash volume.
We still have two big black bags of trash each month, mostly packaging that cannot be recycled.
Nearly everything we buy nowadays has excessive and very durable packaging to prevent (really just discourage) theft in the self-service stores. Small items that would slip easily into a pocket or purse must now be packaged in a tough impenetrable plastic housing as big as a cookie sheet, which for some reason is not recyclable.
I think everything manufactured should have built into it the means to recycle it, and that cost should be included in the price. Remember when a kid could walk to town to a movie and pick up enough drink bottles along the way to pay his admission?
If all this stuff we have to throw away had value added by law, then nearly all of it would be recycled. Our roadsides would not be littered and our landfills would not become mountains.
Some really high value items have their packaging removed (and kept for re-use) at checkout. Maybe ALL small items should be handled that way.
Of course, this kind of local packaging would require people to do it and undo it, and add to the cost of doing business. Maybe Mom and Pop stores could then better compete with the big boxes! Better yet, our mountains of trash would become molehills.
I was discouraged when I read a letter in the Hendersonville Times-News stating that the writer had observed the blue recycle bags being pushed into the same big bins as the trash. Then a column appeared describing how recycles are indeed handled separately and do get re-used.
Naturally, I called friend Joyce Hicks at our county “transfer station” and she explained to me how Polk County handles trash and recyclables.
She also provided tonnage figures (yes, we recycle TONS of stuff!) that show that we are recycling more each year.
We saved about a third again more glass and plastic this year than last, more than 176 tons of glass and nearly 20 tons of plastic.
Both aluminum and steel cans are up 32 percent, while mixed paper is up 27 percent from last year. Joyce attributes this improvement to the new mobile recycling pick-up. I am happy that we are re-using more and burying less.

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