Every once in a while I’ll get caught up in a situation that I didn’t see coming, won’t get out of (although I easily could), and when it’s over look back and ask myself “How do I get myself into these situations?”
There’s been more than few of these situations in my life, but today, we’re going to focus on the most recent, because it started a few months back when I moved in with my dad and ended just recently.
(“Set aside that crossbow, son. It’s time for a steak break!”)
At first everything seemed fine at my new residence: calm, peaceful, drama-free, and a bunch of other adjectives that mean I didn’t have to worry about anything unexpected happening. But then I noticed something that bothered me. Something concerning waste disposal.
I know, I know. At this point, followers of the blog are scratching their heads (or shaking them) and saying, “Just because you live in Staten Island doesn’t mean you have to mention trash all the time!” And that’s fair. I hear you. But let me explain.
In the bin I noticed that my dad and brother were tossing in plastic bottles, cardboard milk cartons, and cardboard packaging without a second thought.
(How quickly they’ve forgotten the Twilight saga’s most important lessons.)
And that was fine. After all, there were only two of them, so how much recycling could they possibly generate? So while I didn’t care enough to speak up, that didn’t stop me from taking responsibility for MY OWN recycling. So what did I do?
Well first I tried to take whatever cardboard products (like empty waffle boxes, pop-tart boxes, etc.) fold them so they’re nice and flat, and put them in a shopping bag, planning to place them in someone else’s recycling bin.
So that was taken care of. But the plastic was much worse. See, at my old place I had a Brita water filter and would simply filter my NYC tap water (among the tastiest in the country, in my opinion) and drink several glasses of that a day. But, while my dad also has a water filter, he buys these 24 packs of Dasani water bottles and stacks them in his kitchen, free for anyone to take.
(Fortunately there aren’t any judgmental hippies around.)
And take I did, drinking about two or three a day, leading to a growing problem: unwilling to toss them in the trash, I put them in plastic shopping bags, one of which was a GIANT Toys R’Us bag (don’t ask how I got it) taking up considerable real estate in my already small bedroom. When that bag was overflowing I put the other bottles in a bunch of smaller shopping bags, and as weeks passed the bottles would spill out, littering the carpeted floor.
I’m sure you’ve got a pretty good mental picture of my sleeping situation at this point, so of course my brother would walk by and, before commenting, look from my face to the mess and give me a weird look.
“I think I’m going to recycle all these bottles,” I said. “Five cents apiece should really add up.”
“You should do it sooner than later,” he said. “Let me know how much you get.”
Then I look again at the mess and chuckled. “It’s like I’m living in a trash heap!”
He shook his head. “Literally.”
(“Actually, this amount would make a very nice couple of bicycles.”)
Not too long after that I loaded all the bags in my trunk and started the first of several trips to Waldbaum’s to cash in the bottles. I say “first of several” because problems came up: first it was that I was too late to the machines, as they operate from 8am to 8pm. Then another time the machine that takes plastic was broken. And when I DID get there at the right time I learned two more important things.
- The bottles MUST have a barcode on them.
- Only certain brands are accepted by the store. Dasani was fine, but brands like Poland Spring and Snapple are a no go.
Now while I’m sure you pencil’s tip just broke from scribbling down all this fascinating information, don’t bother re-sharpening it, as I didn’t walk away with a lot of money from this time-consuming and embarrassing endeavor.
After several trips, I approached the customer service counter with four tickets to cash in. The kid behind the counter (also named Joe) was either new or unused to people cashing in bottles that he had to consult a nearby manual for assistance.
(“Look, I’ve seen Rock Bottom many a time in the mirror, so please just GO.”)
He cashed the tickets and handed me back two crisp singles and a shiny nickel. Yup, a measly two bucks for all that trouble. I kind of expected that, to be honest. I wasn’t exactly envisioning a bright future where I raided garbage cans by day (aka a Can Goblin) and cashed out hundreds of dollars by night, but I was expecting just a BIT more. Oh well.
The lesson I walked away from this experience (along with the consolation prize of a clean bedroom floor) was that I should just stick to filtering my water and forget about worrying about properly disposing of plastic bottles. While it IS important to recycle your plastic, cardboard, and aluminum, it’s even BETTER to reduce the amount produced in the first place.
So I’ll end on that note.
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See you next week,
J. F. Seegitz