Thursday, August 09, 2007

Small Victory

The journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.
--Lao Tzu

So I briefly alluded to the fact that I became a bit obsessed with recycling the numerous glass, plastic, and aluminum objects that accumulated in our beach house--in addition to the ones that were inexplicably dispersed along the beach--while on vacation. After convincing my housemates to humor me and keep the recyclables separate from our other trash, I had a bigger problem. I had to find some place to actually have them recycled.

I started by calling the owner of the beach house, but Andria quickly informed me that the owner lived in another state (I forget which). Considering he never answered his phone it was of little consequence. After consulting the phone book and his fancy GIS gizmo, the Admiral smartly suggested that I call the local Recycling Department. Unfortunately, the number was disconnected. Next I called the 1-800 number on the dumpster that was provided at the end of our driveway. Unable to answer such questions as “What county are you in?” they were of no help.

Warren suggested we stop by the local nature reserve center and inquire there. This too proved difficult as we were always arriving too early, too late, or during lunch. I was able to get the number and after three days of trying, someone actually answered the phone. And lo and behold, this person directed me to a collection dumpster just a few miles away.

Warren and I loaded up the bags of lovingly sorted glass, plastic, and aluminum (and the monkeys) and hit the road. Oddly the dumpster did not accept glass, but we were happy to unload the plastic and the aluminum as well as some miscellaneous cardboard. I couldn’t figure out why they wouldn’t take glass, but resigned myself to just throwing it out. Warren, now fully aboard the Stacey Saves the Earth train, said there was no way we were throwing out the glass after all that I had put everyone through during my crusade. So, when it was time to go home, we loaded up all of our belongings, several bags of glass, and the most recent additions of plastic and aluminum and drove back to Memphis.

We were in Memphis for about five minutes before I dashed off to Collierville for the roller derby bout. Once the bout was over, I watched in horror as hordes of volunteers threw hundreds of empty water and Gatorade bottles (not to mention Red Bull cans) in garbage bins. I quickly grabbed a cardboard box and collected what I could in the immediate Z-Girl area and tried not to let it ruin my night.

The after party was at Murphy’s and as I drank my Newcastle, I started to wonder if Murphy’s recycled. So I asked the busboy. “Aw, no,” he replied.


A bar that primarily sells things in glass bottles and aluminum cans does not recycle?

That was a little hard to swallow. Mainly because I realized that most likely every bar and restaurant in Memphis doesn't recycle either.

I kept thinking about the beach and what Kristy said in reference to the housemates’ willingness to throw away items at the beach that they would normally recycle at home. “Not participating in curbside recycling is just lazy, but if there isn’t anywhere easy to do it, then it’s understandable.” (Kristy, who has a much better mind for details, will, I’m sure, provide the true transcript of this conversation.)

I think Kristy made an excellent, and very true point. Most people are not going to recycle period, and the ones who do need it to be easy. I had already composed my letter to the editor of The Gulf Shores Times (or whatever the local paper is) about getting recycle bins near the beach, but I now realize that I probably need to write hundreds of letters to newspapers, businesses, and government agencies right here in my own backyard.

If the city provides curbside recycling pickup for residential customers why can’t it do the same for businesses?

Why can’t all businesses and public parks provide recycling bins next to garbage cans?

Is that really so hard? In 2007? Really?

I’ve been trying in vain for years to get my employer to provide recycle bins. One year we all signed a little slip of paper vowing to recycle despite there not being an easy place in which to do so. Since then I have taken my daily Dr. Pepper can home with me and recycled it there. One day I saw a fellow employee in the elevator who had a big bag full of cans. He told me he collects for his whole area. Suddenly not feeling so alone, I contacted building services and once again inquired about recycle bins. After an initially enthusiastic response, I was later told it wasn’t going to happen due to costs.

Not one to give up, I was inspired by an article I saw in the Commercial Appeal Tuesday entitled Here’s the Real Poop on Recycling. It said:

TerraCycle, started by two Princeton University students in 2001, buys wastes from worm farmers -- the stuff has a lot of vitamins and nutrients in it, Avale said.

Workers brew it into a tea, which takes about a week, then use it to fill up recycled 20-ounce and 2-liter bottles, branded as plant food, lawn food and orchid food.

Or, said Avale, "it's for anything that grows."

Not only does TerraCycle need a steady flow of wastes, but also it needs bottles. So it offers nonprofit groups rewards to send the containers to the company.

I immediately thought of the roller derby and was psyched to have a solution to our recycling issue. However, once visiting the website I saw that they cannot accept water or Gatorade bottles, only soda bottles. Bummer I thought until I remembered the bigger issue of my workplace. Our vending machines dispense soda bottles!

I emailed building services again, shared the TerraCycle website with them, and a few hours later received an email saying that we would try it out in our main building on a trial basis.


1 down; 5,279,999 to go!


Ashley said...

I feel your pain. I got a recycle bin for my classroom and could not get the curbside service to pick it up at my school's address. So, I load it up and bring it home when it fills up!

Stephanie said...

We rock at my job:

Candice said...

First, I feel the same way you do everytime Andrew has a show. At the end of the night all the garbage cans are full of bottles-the only trash is beer bottles!! So if you every decide to sit down and begin the writing campaign, call me, I'd be happy to sit and write with you.
Second- good work at the beach and good job at work! That's a huge step!

Elizabeth Alley said...

that sounds like a fun vacation.

Viper said...

Way to go Stacey!

med school mama said...

As a fellow earthling I would just like to say Thanks for ALL your effort.

Anonymous said...

Way to go! Were you behind the city's decision to start recycling cardboard effective this week?

Stacey Greenberg said...

anon, i wish i could take credit for that! i believe international paper deserves credit for that one. i was absolutely giddy when i realized how much cardboard i could recycle this weekend.

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