Help me out here: I'm currently in procrastination mode. Full-steam-ahead, no-holds-barred, all-out procrastination mode.
When I'm feeling cyncical, I wonder if maybe all the stuff I carefully separate out of the trash for recycling just gets collected at great expense and dumped into a landfill anyway. Or if it costs more to process than it's worth.
So I did a little research. And it seems that, in my county, at least, recycling does matter. The Waukesha County Materials Recycling Facility (MRF) processed 21,096 tons of recyclables in 2009, from 25 of the county's 37 communities. How much is that? More than 1,000 semi trailer loads. If you lined all those trucks up bumper to bumper, the line would stretch for 12 miles. That seems like a lot.
It reduces pollution, too. The reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from recycling all those materials last year was equivalent to taking 5,691 cars off the road for one year.
It saves space in landfills, too. (I love how certain know-nothings like to claim we can't possibly run out of room in landfills in America. As punishment for being idiots, they should be assigned the task of finding more landfill locations and arguing with angry local residents who don't want anything resembling a landfill anywhere near their property.) Total landfill space saved by our county's recycling efforts was 51,595 cubic yards. And how much is that? The equivalent of a football field piled 30 feet high. That's not huge, but that's only from one county for one year—and I wouldn't want to have to move it all with a wheelbarrow. (There are 3,140 counties or county-equivalent municipalities in the U.S.)
Finally, it saves energy. The 13,187 tons of paper plus 7,711 tons of plastic, steel, glass and aluminum containers shipped to markets from the Waukesha MRF last year saved enough energy to supply 3,794 homes for a year. (There are 156,000 homes in the county. Again, it's not huge, but it's enough to be significant.) Carting stuff to the landfill costs money; the recycling program earns money. So recycling saves tax dollars.
Less of everything—but a good economy for owls
My county, despite increasing population, has been generating fewer recyclables. The amount collected saw a 12% decline between 2005 and 2009. But it's not all going in the ground: trash destined for landfills has also decresed in the same time period, by 4%. The County Executive says several factors contribute to the recycling decline, including "lighter weight containers, changes in packaging (i.e., glass to plastic), smaller newspapers and magazines, declining circulation numbers, and the economy." So the bad economy is good for that one thing, at least. (Not much else, I'm afraid.)
Meanwhile, moving on to other local news, Mike wins: it's now too cold for mosquitos! They're all gone. It was 38°F this morning when I got up (that's 3.3°C). Victory! Death to mosquitos.
And the owls are here. Finally. Every year the owls come through the area and stay for two or three weeks. When I hear one hooting late at night, I go outside and listen, and I can hear another one answering from a distance—and another, from another direction and a greater distance. Talking, I guess. (I take a flashlight when I go outside, and shine it up into various trees, but I've never seen an owl. You have to be a little careful outdoors at three in the morning shining a flashlight around. It could look suspicious. It's a quiet neighborhood.)
They were late this year, the owls—usually they come around earlier in the summer. You can always tell if they haven't been here yet because there are rabbits all over the place. Then the owls come through. And when they leave, no more rabbits.
I guess I'm done. If I was looking for an excuse not to recycle, I didn't find it. I do a lot of shopping via the internet—I'm sure I'm not Amazon's best customer, but I feel like I should be up there on the list—and over the past couple of months a pile of discarded cardboard boxes has gradually grown to unruly size on the back deck. The recycling rules demand that it all be cut into flats no more than 2 x 4' in size and bundled for pickup. It's not that bad a job, but I don't enjoy it. I've been procrastinating all day.
Best get to it.
"Open Mike" is an off-topic ramble that appears on Sundays—unless, that is, the focus of your humble author's formidable procrastination skills is the writing of a new "Open Mike."
UPDATE by the dawn's early light: 7 a.m. Monday morning:
...Procrastination is one thing that I am really good at. (The recycling truck doesn't come until 9 or 10, so there's still time!)
UPDATE #2: I got the second of two bales of cardboard out to the alley just as the recycling cart was collecting up all my stuff, at about 11:30, and had a nice short conversation with the garbage collection guy.
Me: nice day.
He: I couldn't tell ya that.
Me: At least it's not hot.
He: I couldn't even tell ya that. I don't know if it's what the politicians want me to say!
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Original contents copyright 2010 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved.