Written by Bob Woelk Tuesday, 12 July 2011 15:46
Here’s what I learned working a Saturday morning shift at the Hillsboro recycling center.
Residents like and utilize their facility. After all, they are paying for it on their monthly utility bills. They started arriving right at 9 a.m., and the steady stream continued until noon with only a couple of five-minute breaks.
No. 1 plastic, which includes most clear bottles and containers, holds the top spot for donated items. People around here love their Gatorade, which in the company’s infancy was sold in glass bottles. Two-liter soda bottles, containing everything from Mountain Dew to root beer, are also packaged in No. 1 plastic.
To the uninitiated to the realm of recycling, the number representing the type of material used can usually be found on the bottom, surrounded by a triangle.
Not everyone sorts his or her recyclables before taking them to the site. Though not a requirement, those who separate their household waste will get the chore done much more quickly and efficiently. Some neighboring towns, I understand, don’t require the materials to be sorted. Apparently, that’s done by the company picking them up.
Though more and more people, my wife included, are taking advantage of reusable shopping bags, there are still plenty of disposable sacks in use. And, at this point, there appears to be no way to reincarnate the material from which they are made. Some places still want the clean, complete bags for reuse, most of them are torn and must be placed in the trash.
Experience levels of recycling center users vary greatly. Some roll in with specialized containers that easily empty into the “huts,” while others bring their goods in large trash bags.
Because this is still a Mennonite town (see also “thrifty”), many residents want their Hefty bags and cardboard boxes back. That’s OK. It’s just another form of recycling.
Those new to the process also need to be gently reminded that this is not a landfill. Products that can’t be remanufactured need to be thrown away at home. For the most part, I must say, the items I worked with were at least rinsed clean.
Though there is a cabinet for materials deemed “hazardous,” there is no provision for items such as small batteries and the new fluorescent light bulbs. The packaging for these common objects notes that they are not to be tossed in with the usual disposables. They are made with chemicals and other materials that are not healthy for our future. So, then, what are we supposed to do with them?
Aluminum cans seldom make it to the designated “pod.” Somebody is likely there to intercept the most prized recyclable material.
The holes at the tops of the pods are not large enough for many No. 2 plastic containers. These contain bulk items such as kitty litter, laundry detergent and bug killer. They need to be jumped on, crushed and manhandled into a shape that will fit. Who says a square peg can’t fit through a round hole? And, by the way, the No. 2 containers can be some of the best smelling.
Newspapers are still being subscribed to, and magazine reading is still alive and well. One of the toughest jobs at the center, by the way, is helping people decide what constitutes a newspaper, and what type of paper defines a magazine. It’s not as easy as it might seem. For example, how is the makeup of a phone book defined? What about a paperback novel?
Overall, my Saturday at the recycling center demonstrated that this is a viable, useful service for the community. And, just like the materials I helped sort and send on their way, I will likely be back for a return engagement.