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My town doesn’t pick up cardboard. Crazy, right? One of the easiest things to recycle. I figured there had to be a place around here that would take the three or four cardboard boxes we get each week. I really had to find someplace because wntil now I had been — yes, I know how crazy this sounds — sneaking them into the cardboard recycling bin behind a local pizza place. The kitchen workers, who did not speak English, were casting disparaging glances at me. I didn’t want to go to jail for illegal recycling.

Okay, so I searched the Earth911.com website for a close drop-off location. I found one a few towns over next to my Trader Joe’s. Last week I loaded the car with my boxes and headed over to the Town of Hempstead Department of Sanitation Recycling Drop-off. I got there and it was a zoo. A ton of people with trunks and backseats and flatbeds full of junk. “Where do I put my cardboard,” I asked. The guy in the blue shirt waved me over to Dumpster #1. I backed my car up to it, got out and looked in. It was filled with carpeting, bagged garbage and other debris. Wait, what happened to recycling? I could send my cardboard to a landfill by putting it in front of my house. I wanted to avoid that fate. There must have been a mistake. I went to another guy in a shirt. “Excuse me, I want to recycle my cardboard.” Again, I got a thumb in the direction of bin #1.

Now I was getting frustrated. I went to a third guy and explained my fate. “Do you have cardboard? Then put it into bin #1,” he said. “But that’s all garbage,” I said. He walked away without another word. I kept my boxes in my trunk and drove off close to tears. This was not what I wanted. I wanted to recycle. But I also realized that this, this feeling was not what I wanted, either. Recycling is supposed to make you feel good. I did not feel good. In fact, I felt a little foolish and nutty. Not to mention hot. (It’s crazy hot here in New York.) I came home and left the boxes in my car.

This weekend we went to my friend’s house. She told me that she puts all her cardboard — including cereal boxes — in her recycling bin and they are picked up and carted away. As long as I flattened all my boxes I could leave them there at her garage. Her mother-in-law, she said, did the same thing. She doesn’t like wasting resources, either, I guess. I left it, of course.

This morning, though, I wanted answers. (And a place to get rid of my cardboard that doesn’t entail pizza grease-caked sandals.) I called the town sanitation department. Seems like the guys in the shirts were telling me the truth. “That is just a sorting container,” the woman on the phone told me. “It’s a convenience for our residents. It goes up the hill where it is sorted. We try and recycle everything,” she said. Whew! I feel much better, but I also feel a little worse. I am so mistrustful these days when it comes to everything environmental. I really need to relax a bit. I know that. The point of this blog — the point of what I am doing, really, is to do the best that I can do. And that’s all anyone can do, right? So I’ll be back to the town dump next week, cardboard in hand and a cooler head, I hope.

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One Response to “Recycling Woes: When Being Green Makes You See Red”

  1. Shari says:

    I am sure your friend wouldn’t mind of you brought her your “garbage” each week- hey it would give you an excuse to catch up.

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