Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Adventures in Recycling

  This, I think, is a story that needs to be told, although it will probably only serve to display my naivete in some regards. 

 This summer, I had the girls gather, crush, and place into a 32 gallon garbage bin aluminum cans.  It took about 4 months of collecting and our own soda-drinking to fill the can.  I didn't expect that we would get much money for the effort, but we had the cans regardless and it didn't make sense to me simply throw the cans away, even if they were only worth 1 or 2 cents per can.  $6-$10 for the effort was $6-$10 I wouldn't have if I didn't make the effort, so why not?

 Now, way back in the 1990's, I dated a number of women who considered it part of their civic duty to recycle, which of course meant that it became part of my civic duty as well, no matter how I might protest or point to the data that suggested that some of their recycling efforts were not only wastes of time but also ended up in the same land-fills anyway and probably did MORE harm to the environment.  The only argument for recycling that made sense to me was the dollars-and cents argument.  If you were paying me to take the extra second or two to sort my garbage before placing it into the bin, they I might go along with it.  

 Recycling did mean a few extra dollars in my pocket.  OmniSource just north of downtown Ft. Wayne was the facility we used, and aside from the grunge that is common to recycling centers, it was an alright place.  The employees were friendly and you clientele seemed just as average as any of us.

 There is a reason I am making this distinction.

 So, we saved up a bin full of cans.  Our first boondoggle was when to get the cans to the recycling center.  My girlfriend and I are busy people, rarely during the week do we have anytime to do anything during "regular business hours".  Weekends are typically even worse.  After doing some research, we found a facility that opens at noon on Sundays, the "Recycling Center" on 9405 Dessau Road. 

 I imagine that there is not a lot of call for creative individuals in the recycling biz, thus the clever name.

 We arrived at around noon to get in line with our bin.  The facility was a manufactured-home with an attached garage/warehouse and a fenced-off back lot.  It had two scales, one for trucks and their large loads, and a smaller walk-up scale for people with items they could carry.  The driveway was gravel, something I hadn't seen in years.

 In line ahead of us were some of the hardest-looking men you could imagine.  Most either looked like they had just left a biker-rally, and a couple were just-this-side of homeless.  I am not certain how well I fell-in with this crowd based on my appearance (big and hairy).

 Jamy, my wife, stayed in the car. 

 Ahead of me in line were the two homeless-looking gentlemen.  They had with them several pieces of scrap and a box full of collected wire, all either rusted or caked in dirt and oil. The attendant at the walk-up scale explained that he couldn't take the metal, which I believe had something to do with the condition and cleanliness of what they had to offer.  They began complaining, and were directed to the pay-window to speak with the manager. 

 The manager told them the same thing; they would not take the metal.  He suggested that they try the City recycling facility, which is open during the week.  The gentlemen began insisting that they had some kind of documentation, and I think they mentioned FEMA, that somehow made their scrap and wire acceptable.  What FEMA has to do with recycling, I cannot imagine. 

 The manager insisted that they would not take the scrap.  The homeless-FEMA-wonder-duo let loose with a string of obscenities, and calling the recycling employees "whores" repeatedly.

 Whores?  Really?  How are they, in refusing to take your goods, whores?  I am under the impression that whores exchange sex for money, or that whorish behavior was selling-out your values, morals, or personal limitations for some form of gain.  These people were not acting like "whores", especially by adhering to whatever standards they used.  

 The gentlemen picked up their garbage, still cursing and calling the employees whores, and vowing to "never do business here again".  I was next up, and moved to place my bin on the scale, when one of the employees said, "move, please."

 Now, there was a bit of a language barrier. The employees, friendly and efficient, spoke mostly Spanish.  I speak Spanish, but none was attempted on me.  When he said "move, please", I moved toward the scale.

 "No, move." he said, becoming a little more concerned based on his expression, but still amused with the display going on behind me.  Obviously confused, I tried to find whatever I was obstructing.  At this point, the employee instructing me to move finally indicated that I take cover behind a truck near the scale.

 You see, the homeless couple had pulled-up their car backwards to the scale.  They were on a gravel drive.  If they peeled-out as a further display of their ire, I would have been pelted with stones.

 This must have been a frequent occurrence, and not my attendant's first trip to the rodeo.  They warning proved to be unnecessary, but added to the over-all element of risk at this facility.  

 For my bin of cans, we received $6.60.  The bin for the cans cast $14.99.  We decided that recycling was not worth the adventure it entailed.  I am now using the bin to hold twigs and branches that we will use as kindling in our fireplace this winter.  Probably the more cost-effective and safer way to go. 

 The cans are going in the garbage for men with far less to risk to recover, if they so desire.

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