autumn days

Friday, December 31, 2010

Is that recyclable?

Dear Hannah,

We've always been proud to recycle as much as we can.  As a teenager I taught my parents how to recycle.  You love to put the recycling into the bins and also to pull things out for your creative art projects.  You know how to put all the paper and plastics into the containers.  Lately I have been thinking through the process of recycling, thanks again to Colin Beavan's book No Impact Man.  What I put into the recycling bin surely goes to a recycling facility, but do my discarded goods actually get turned into new products?  I am beginning to think not.

Plastic is a sticky subject.  From what I've heard, most of our plastics don't appear to be recyclable, from small containers to all lids, regardless of their recycling numbers).  And the more plastic is recycled, the more toxic it becomes.  That means two things.  We need to decrease the plastic products we purchase and then have to find a purpose for our non-recyclable plastics and other wastes.  I have been saving my clean non-recyclable waste and without even seeing my little piles around the house, your papa says I am going to become an environmentalist hoarder.  He doesn't yet know how right he is.

Looking into what is actually recycled in my county, here's what I found.  I can recycle anything that came from a tree, including envelopes with plastic windows, but nothing with food or garbage attached to it.  They take any plastic with a recycling symbol and number on it that is larger than 6 ounces and isn't a lid.  No styrofoam.  The more I learn, the more I want to know.  I still have questions and I don't fully believe they recycle everything on that list (link below).  Here are the questions I'd like to have answered.

Can I recycle little bits of paper?
What about tape on wrapping paper or cardboard boxes?
What does the recycling facility do with non-recyclables?
Is there a way to help them redirect those goods for future use instead of a landfill?
Where should I recycle my styrofoam?
What organization can I take all my clean garbage to for reuse or recycling?
Do I need to sort my clean garbage into different bins?
What should I do with my piles of clean garbage?
Will Scrap take them?
Should I start a preschool art group to create gifts from all our non-recyclable?

Scrap is an awesome site in North Portland, well worth the trip.  I know they take and sell reusable materials at incredibly low prices.  Your papa loaded up on Scrap's pens and pencils for work.  You and I found craft projects there.  And your friend Bea used Scrap crayons in muffin tins to make new crayons.

I don't now have these answers at hand, but with help from the internet and my more-environmentally-savvy friends, I am bound to find what I am searching for.

Your recycling buddy,
your mama

multnomah county curbside pickup
more multnomah specifics
Bea's crayons

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