Earlier this week, my son came home from kindergarten and asked if we could start recycling. I almost laughed. We live in an area where there’s no curbside recycling. I even asked our private trash collection company, and they said that, though they offered the service, it’s not available in our area. There’s not even a recycling center in our town.
When we lived in California, we had 3 different trash cans (for trash, recycling, and food waste). In New York, we also had 3 trash cans (one for paper recyclables, another for plastics and glass, etc., and the last one for actual trash). I remember my landlady in Queens giving myself and my roommates a hard time, because she actually got fined (by the sanitation police, presumably) when recyclables were put into the trash. As much as I felt for my landlady, I was proud to live in a place that took recycling so seriously.
Having been “trained” by those experiences, I cringe at putting paper, glass, plastics, cans, or any other possible recyclables, in the trash can. It just seems wrong, when there are other options. And we’ve stepped it up a notch here by composting most of our own food waste. Recycling is seriously inconvenient, though. We have to collect everything in bins in our garage and, every once in a while, make the trek down to Austin’s Ecology Action recycling center. There are closer places we could go, but Ecology Action takes everything and they are open 24/7. (I love you, Ecology Action!) We also save our egg cartons, which we give to our friend who raises chickens, and from whom we buy our eggs.
With all this — especially living in a community in which recycling is a conscious choice, not required by law or enforced by fines — I found my son’s request that we recycle rather humorous. He’s just too young to know that all these things he takes for granted are part of our family’s commitment to live in keeping with our values. We aren’t model ecological citizens, by any means, but we do our best.
Since I sometimes feel like we live in an oasis of ecological sensitivity in our small town (though I honestly don’t know much about our neighbors’ trash-handling activities), I was pleased to find that the city of Austin is doing a “reality show” about living with zero waste: