Ok, I’m just going to come out with it. I didn’t used to recycle. The person who founded a company to recycle your old, hole-y socks used to throw everything away.
Well actually, I did recycle Then I didn’t. Then I did. Let me explain.
I moved from Michigan to Chicago in 2003. I recycled in Michigan. I had a cute little bin that I put my paper and plastics for recycling in and sat it out at the curb once a week. Bottles and cans? Well, those had a 10 cent deposit to be returned to the store; it was like I got paid every time I went grocery shopping! (which is and always has been one of my most dreaded tasks so sometimes I had to borrow my mom’s minivan because it had been a month since I went shopping and all the bottles and cans would not fit in my two door Toyota).
Then I moved to Chicago. And I love Chicago, it’s a great city, but there was this weird blue bag recycling at the time. You had to buy blue bags at the store, put your recyclables in those, and put those in the trash bin. And maybe you had to sort paper, plastics, etc. into different bags. I’ll be honest, I'm not really sure.
Looking back, there are several reasons I didn’t buy those blue bags. One, I had to BUY the bags! I was in my early 20’s with little money, trying to figure out how to survive on temp work. When was the last possible day I could mail my credit card bill payment and it not be late? Where was the cheapest happy hour food special? And if I wrote a check for beer on Wednesday, would it clear the bank before or after I deposited my paycheck on Friday? Going from easy free recycling to even just paying a few dollars for a bunch of bags seemed crazy to me.
Then there was the fact that it just seemed hard. There wasn’t good info on it, I didn’t have the bags, and I had a lot of other things I was worried about. So, it just didn’t make my to-do list.
And that’s one of the problems with a lot of recycling. It’s just not easy. Find a clothing donation, take the stuff, and drop it off. Then, you wonder... what do they do with it? Electronics recycling? Now, that was a challenge. Several years ago I spent many hours over several days online trying to figure out where to take old computer monitors. I was so frustrated I nearly threw them in the dumpster, but I eventually persevered and figured out where to take them. But I still had to drive several miles, find parking, and drag them into the store (and these were the big tube monitors!). And again, I wondered ... what are they going to do with it?
And while not everything is easy or cheap, it shouldn't be that hard. Good information and resources will help ease the burden and hopefully increase recycling, reduce waste, and reduce consumption.
So how did I get back into recycling? I’ll tell you, it wasn’t some epiphany that I needed to do my part to help keep our environment clean.
When I met my husband many years ago and he discovered I didn’t recycle, his question to me was, “Why do you hate the earth?” Seriously, that’s exactly what he said! And then I felt bad. Because I don’t hate the earth. Who would hate the earth?
So there you have it - one simple question and I was back into recycling again and glad I was. Now my husband asks me what can and cannot be recycled and where to take it. And I buy things like silicone storage bags and reusable produce bags.
You don’t have to be an extreme environmentalist to do better for the earth. You just have to not hate it.