January 26, 2012

Recycle Recycle Tapped

The Oregon Bottle Bill was enacted in 1971. The state of Washington, located just over the Columbia River from here, has yet to enact a bottle bill. (Sorry, Seattle, yet another way Portland stumps you.)

So when I was a kid, we collected Washington bottles and cans until my grandfather had enough to take to the recycling center IN OREGON and sell for cash. My grandparents lived in Long Beach, Washington at this time and my grandfather would collect all the bottles that washed up on the beach. Most of them were full of sand and sea water and other nasty things - seriously, you would be surprised. The bottles all had to be cleaned and the labels removed before the recycling center would take them. Guess who got that job?

Yep, me and my sister.

It was probably one of the most disgusting jobs I have ever had to do. I loathed a new load of bottles being dumped at our house. We had to haul them to the basement and fill up the old utility sink (concrete) with water and bottles.  Reaching down into the dark murky water where your hand slid by something gross (probably only a bottle label - but kid imagination turns them into something alive), the worst. YUCK. I remember this work taking hours, but who knows? It could have been fifteen minutes....I was a kid, any time away from swinging on our tire swing or riding my hot pink banana seat bike was time wasted as far as I was concerned. The one saving grace was that we got to keep 1cent for every bottle we cleaned.

1 cent.  Livin' the life.

The point being is that recycling everything we can is in my genes. Now I actually get paid to come up with cost effective ways we can recycle more at our properties and to get others to recycle more....it rocks.

Again, I feel lucky to live in a place like Portland, Oregon. We have had curbside recycling since 1983. Our city wide curbside composting program just began at the end of October!  Also, plastic grocery bags are now illegal within the city limits!  Don't forget to bring your reusable bags!  We keep them in the back of our car. I also keep one in my shoulder bag, it compresses down into itself and takes up very little room.

Anyone can recycle plastic bags, lids and clamshells at all the New Seasons Markets. They provide this service as an additional perk to the community at no cost. Since plastic bags, lids and clamshells cannot be picked up curbside (they gum up the machines), they have to be taken to separate recycling centers. However, you can just drop them at New Seasons when you go shopping instead. New Seasons gets them to the recycling center for you.

A lot of people were upset about the "forced" composting. I have a particular set of friends that were sure it was going to ruin their lives since garbage pick up was being changed to every other week in order to keep costs down. They both work from home, have two small children, and therefore cook a lot at home. They were sure their garbage load was too much for every other week pick up.

I spoke to them again just before the holidays, almost two months in, and all is well. They were shocked to realize how much of their garbage was food waste. Most people are shocked when confronted with the actual contents of their garbage, but if you pay attention even for one week, you might see there are items you or your family throws away that can be recycled or easily composted in the backyard or your patio worm bin.

You may still not be convinced. In that case, take 75 minutes to watch Tapped (free on Hulu), or at the least, this trailer:

Tapped focuses on water issues (another blog topic altogether) but it also addresses the plastics in garbage issue as well. There is a floating island of garbage in each the Pacific and Atlantic oceans and some beaches are getting their sand replaced with tiny pieces of plastic. For real.

Portland Metro Recycling Resources:
Portland Recycle at Work
Garbage and Recycling at Home
Construction Debris Recycling
Metro Garbage and Recycling
Recology Waste Services
New Seasons Recycling

Make a difference.

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