Hola, amigos. How’s it going with you? I know it’s been a long time since I rapped at ya. But I’ve been swamped with work, rain and a desire to be a better person. With that desire, I have landed on a single conclusion. One thing indeed, that I might do that will improve my karmic state and my place in the good graces of the planet. I’m going to recycle more.
Sounds easy. Should be easy. But nothing is easy is it? Sure, we can put our newspapers in a bundle and cart them to the bins, cardboard too, maybe even a few plastic bottles, and 5¢ a can isn’t bad at all, but beyond that, it’s downright tough to accomplish. Recycling has been around a while, and this being a ‘green’ state before anything else, you’d think that we’d be on the forefront of recycling our stuff. The truth is, we’re right there with everyone else, and it’s a pretty lame place to be.
The worst is simple plastic. The bins will accept plastic bottles with a neck of any number value. But even if that same number is evident on your yogurt or butter tub, it’s a no go. You can toss it in there, but they’re going to pitch it into their own trash or more likely burn it, which does nobody any favors, especially the environment. So, that means no plastic bags, no plastic lids, caps, or even that snazzy to go container your lunch came out of the deli in. What’s sad is that they CAN recycle this, but they won’t because it’s not worth the expense of storage/transport to them.
The same goes for styrofoam, which is right up there on my annoyance list. Because the recyclers are generally paid by weight, bulky, but lightweight foam = fail. This means that all of your meat purchased at the market, packaged in plastic, sitting atop a nice piece of foam with a boldly indented recycle logo won’t actually be recycled. This means that my business, that receives quite a few items weekly via UPS in cardboard boxes packed with foam peanuts, has at least six 30 gal. garbage bags full of ‘peanuts’ that I have to hide to keep myself from depression. For some reason I keep them, thinking a proper place for them will magically appear. Same for the foam that surrounds electronics in their boxes, nice big triangle with arrows on it implying it’s ‘green’ and friendly, but where in fact can this possibly go to be recycled? A quick call to the WSWMD in Brattleboro to ask where I could possibly recycle the #6 polystyrene received an answer stating that I could drive it to New Jersey if I wished. And that is exactly why they don’t bother. Trucking a huge amount of low weight styrofoam to NJ costs more than whatever they could receive from the recycler.
Wal-Mart Canada recently launched a polystyrene recycling program that takes your peanuts and turns them into fire-resistant commercial insulation, which is a win-win somewhere along the line, and a great idea. But I have a better solution. It turns out that brick & mortar UPS stores accept packing peanuts. The closest stores to our area are in Williamstown, MA, Greenfield, MA, and Keene, NH all of which confirmed to me via phone that they will indeed accept the peanuts. So there’s a start.
Now for the next easy one. Plastic shopping bags. If you’re like me, you have a drawer or cupboard that is just teeming with plastic shopping bags stuffed into plastic shopping bags. Bring them back to the Shaw’s in Wilmington, they have a nice bin for ‘em that implies that they will be recycled, and heck they’ll even discount your purchase total by 3¢ for every bag you reuse on the spot. In Ireland they’ve begun using a tax to curb plastic bag usage with excellent results. This will no doubt irk a few (my conservative leanings included here), but a 15¢ tax per bag at the grocery will certainly help me remember to bring that cloth bag in from the car when I pop in for a few things.
So what does this have to do with computers and tech? Well, first off, it’s a fair bit like tech things in that it is somehow just beyond common knowledge to many of us, regardless of how often it is right before our noses. And of course I’m going to go into computer recycling now, how could I not?
It is absolutely imperative that you recycle your electronics properly. eWaste is by far the most hazardous of our recyclable refuse. Not recycling it is in my opinion vulgar and despicable. While there are very few places in the US that accept eWaste and recycle it properly, there is at least enough profit in it for our local WSWMD to deal with it and ship it to the right people, which they do, for a fee. I know you don’t feel like you should have to pay to recycle anything, because we all deserve just about everything for free, but if you can’t afford $10-$20 to retire your old equipment properly, then burn it in your own fireplace and keep the fumes to yourself instead of spreading them on to others.
Or, alternatively, you might be able to recycle it for free anyway. If you bought a new computer to replace the old, there are options. Many manufacturers have very reasonable programs to do it right. Apple will give you two FedEx barcodes presumably for both a CPU and a monitor that even pay for shipping back to them for free recycling of your old system. And if you have a dead Dell and buy a new Dell, they’ll take your old one for free and pay for shipping as well. When I recycle this way, I go so far as to take other failed components (motherboards, modems, etc) and toss them into the cpu case and get it as chock full as I can before shipping it off to them. They haven’t yelled at me yet, so why not pass on the fun. RadioShack will take all of your batteries, so stop throwing them in the trash as well. Staples will pay you for recycling your printer cartridges there. They’ll pay you!
What about compact fluorescent light bulbs? CFL’s are great, but have mercury in them. You probably didn’t realize that did you? Well, in five years or so when they finally burn out, bring ‘em down to our local ACE Hardware, Deerfield Valley Supply, and they’ll take them off your hands for proper recycling without question.
One more thing, how about a compost bin? Make your own dirt! This is family fun people, it’s like a smelly party in the backyard. It’s so easy and there’s a lot of ways to get it done, but it will reduce your weekly rubbish dramatically and your dump runs will be all the more pleasant for it as well. Everything from paper towels and egg cartons to coffee grounds and egg shells can jump in there and make you some fine tomato growing soil.
So there it is, perhaps my geek-iest column yet. But I’m going to be a better person for it. Thanks for trying to recycle at least, I know it’s a complete pain in the tuchus, but really it’s worth it. It might be another couple of miles on your Suburban, but you might offset that carbon emission with a few key stops along the way.