Thursday, September 20, 2007

Adventures in Recycling

In my quest for ways to make ends meet, I discovered that I was unwittingly discarding valuable items each and every day. My middle daughter E informed me that all of those soda cans and wine bottles that I was tossing into the garbage were worth a lot of money. This, as you can imagine, immediately grabbed my attention and I pleaded with her to tell me more.

It turns out that you can turn in empty cans, plastic bottles and glass bottles for cold, hard cash! Who knew? E says that she saves her empties religiously and, about once a month takes them to a recycling center and drives away with, like, $50 in cash! Wow, that's enough to get us through at least a weekend of groceries, or a tank of gas, or a manicure & pedicure, or ... well, the mind reels at the possibilities.

So I did it, I saved and saved until we had 3 black trash bags full. Today I decided that the time had come to claim my $50+. I had lunch dates scheduled for the next two days and no way to pay my share of the tab. And there was no incoming cash on the horizon.

Desperate times call for desperate measures, so I went out in back this a.m. to find the bags of recycling. I located them in a big old box but, when I lifted them out of the box, I discovered a swam of ants all over the inside! Ewwww. I hit the bags against the wall of the house a couple of times and unhappily put the antsy bags in my trunk.

Where does one go to recycle? I aimlessly drove around the neighborhood until I discovered a structure that could only be used for something as random as recycling. There appeared to be a dozen or so people out in front, the caliber of which I normally don't get the opportunity to associate with. They all seemed to be pushing shopping carts full of cans towards the structure.

After parking, I walked over to a hut and found a helpful young man inside who barked at me "you want those weighed?" I explained to him that I'd never done this before and therefore didn't know what I wanted. He shrugged and walked away and I was left with no recourse but to watch my new cohorts, all of whom seemed to know exactly what to do.

An elderly gentleman turned his bulging black trash bag upside down and emptied the contents into a large blue bin. I noticed that only cans came out of his bag. His glass bottles he had neatly standing up inside a box of some sort. Then I watched a rather well put together young woman (compared to the others in our crowd) go up to an opening in the wall and start shoving plastic bottles, cans, and glass bottles inside. I asked her what she was doing and why she wasn't having her cans weighed. She said that either way worked fine and if I decided to put mine into the opening in the wall, I should put them in bottom first.

Bottom first, I could do that. Plus it would save me from having to sort the cluster of items in my trash bags. As the young lady finished, she pushed a button and a receipt popped out at her. She smiled back over her shoulder at me and said that she was taking it into the nearby grocery store and redeem it for cash! She would only be getting a dollar seventy-five but that would be enough for a burrito, right? Righto!

As I opened my bags, I realized that I had an awful lot of cans ... perhaps I should use one of those blue bins and have them weighed? So I dug in and started sorting. What a nasty, disgusting business! I ended up with all sorts of fluids all over my hands and clothing. Mental note: encourage family to wash containers before discarding them. Some of the items were even stuck to the trash bags but, luckily, I didn't encounter any of the afore mentioned ants.

I sorted and tossed until I had a practically full blue bin, which I pushed up to the ever helpful young man inside the recycling structure. He ignored me as I patiently waited my turn but then he asked the elderly gentleman if my blue bin belonged to him!!!! Excuse me but I hadn't work that long and hard only to have them misappropriated at this stage of the game. So I reclaimed my bin, while giving the young man a withering glance, and kept it at my side while I tackled the hole in the wall. I started putting plastic and glass bottles in there, one by one, bottoms first (I am nothing if not a quick study.)

The machine obliging accepted most of my offerings although it did spit a couple of bottles back at me. The young man won me over by adding a couple of random plastic bottles to my pile. Once I finished and had tossed a couple of larger items I'd brought (pronounced to be "trash" by people behind me in line) into the trash can. Apparently you can not recycle Tide or dog food containers.

I tentatively pushed the green button and the machine spewed out a receipt for $2.63! Then I pushed my blue bin of cans over to the young man who poured it into another blue bin and removed a couple of offending items. He weighed my cans, and produced a receipt for exactly $5.

As I stumbled trippingly over to the store to claim my bounty, I realized that it was far short of the promised $50+. But it was enough to buy 2 lottery tickets (funny how important lottery tickets become the poorer one gets) and some antibacterial hand gel, which was badly needed at that point. Needless to say, I cancelled both of my luncheon dates.

So that was my first experience in the Adventures of Recycling. And what do I have to show for it? A big bottle of antiseptic hand gel and ants in my car. Was it worth it? I'll get back to you about that!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Ok, to be fair I never said I went once a month...It's more like once every 6 months. We also only save soda cans. Sorry you were let down - I really was trying to help.....E