.Again and Again

Reduce, reuse, recycle and rot are the four r's of the new trash

August 8-14, 2007

Sure, we all know that it’s good to recycle. Over the years, the act of recycling has been made so easy, has become so part of my normal routine, that when I’m faced with a situation where recycling is unavailable, it feels almost criminal. Just dropping a plastic water bottle into the trash gives me a twinge, as if I had just stolen from the convenience store called Earth.

But what about that “It all gets thrown in the garbage anyway” myth? Well, according to Andrew Sloan of the North Bay Corporation, it’s just that: a myth. You are not wasting your time by recycling; on the contrary, you are participating in a vital pastime. North Bay Corporation, which serves most of Sonoma County and areas in northern Marin County, offers what is termed “single stream” recycling. This means that everything gets dumped in one bin and then shipped to a facility where our recyclables travel down a conveyor belt and are, yes, actually sorted through by people and machines, to be purchased later by brokers who then use the recycled materials to make something else. This is what recycling is meant to be, and it could not be made any easier.

In its persistent attempt to make recycling as easy as possible, North Bay Corp. has begun a new program to help businesses organize their recycling programs to be more effective. North Bay will come to a business free of charge and provide recycling guides, identifying stickers to make disposal more convenient, and carts and bins for outside recycling, and it will also give presentations and train employees.

This all sounded great to me, but I had a burning question, something that could end an ongoing argument once and for all between me and the co-workers at one of my many places of employ: Do the containers need to be cleaned before they get tossed in the recycle bin or not?

I say they do, and my co-workers now hate me. Sloan assures that while North Bay Corp. prefers the containers clean, and it could be considered the respectful thing to do considering that there are real live people sorting through what is essentially our trash, it is not necessary. In other words, if you can stand to clean, please do, but if cleaning that container is what will be the deciding factor for where you throw it–in the garbage bin or in the recycle bin–then just throw it in the recycle bin dirty. They cannot accept containers with actual liquid in them, so dump that out, but you don’t have to scrub it if, after a long and sweaty shift at work or in your kitchen at home, this simple act is what will push you over the proverbial edge.

According to Sloan, one of the most common recycling faux pas that people make is with plastic bags. Plastic bags need to be collected and then dropped off at a supermarket that deals with brokers who deal with plastic bags. If you throw them in your recycle bin, you are throwing them into the landfill, albeit through a circuitous route. But don’t worry, you don’t have to remember all of this. You can go to North Bay Corp.’s website anytime you have questions about anything to do with recycling, including how to deal with household toxics like batteries and computer parts.

It has an addition to its already informative site called the Go Green Campaign, where you can learn more about their four r’s: “reduce, reuse, recycle and rot.” The “rot” part is new, and Sloan and I had a lovely debate over its placement. I think “rot” should go first, but this is really just a technicality. The point is you can now throw your compost in your green yard-waste bin, and someone else will benefit from the resulting mulch. In addition, North Bay is offering Smith & Hawkin composting bio-stacks for your yard. Personally, I just throw my compost in the corner of my yard, but I’m sure my neighbors would greatly appreciate it if I would upgrade, and now that I have heard about this incredible deal, I have every intention of investigating the offer further. You can too, at www.unicyler.com.


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