The Designated Recycler

Every family needs a Designated Recycler. No matter how great it is for the earth, no matter the benefit, most people are not going to recycle on their own. If your family is anything like mine, when it comes to promoting a Green earth, the roles are clear. My siblings and I, the Baby Boomer generation, had a good thing going with return deposits on glass bottles, reusable metal lunch boxes and paper grocery bags; but our actions in letting those things go, among others things, are responsible for damaging the good Earth into its current crippled state. The next generation, our children now aged twenty to just under forty, are the ones left with the duty of cleaning it up for their children.

Not me personally, but someone in my lifetime invented plastic, a convenience but also a factor in the current earth crises. It’s in grocery bags and frozen food containers. Those little sleeves that hold beer six packs together are plastic, as are the bottles that hold our favorite beverages. Daily we rip up, tear off and pitch out plastic in mass quantities.

And it never goes away. Plastic remains in ditches and backyards, in oceans and landfills; and it will stay exactly where it is for an eternity. We will use far too much power, petroleum and man hours and generate more pollution in replacing the plastic we’ve thrown away. Unless we do something about it.

Dealing with plastic is a key component in efforts to live a Greener life. Except most of us don’t want to think about it. I admit, when I’m finishing up my low calorie, frozen meal, I’m too busy thinking how my ‘healthy’ meal might have been better for me but it certainly wasn’t as satisfying as say… a big chunk of lasagna. So that’s what I’m thinking about as I finish the last bit of seasoned rice and dump the plastic tray into the trash receptacle.

And if by some chance I remember to flip that plastic dish over before I pitch it, to see what number is stamped inside the little triangle on the bottom, I have to call my daughter to ask, “Which numbers am I looking for?” not a lucid queary by any means; but she’s answered that question for me so many times, she knows exactly what I’m talking about. Although I couldn’t tell you without calling her again.

My brothers and sisters have similar recycling issues. Like me, they are sandwiched between grandchildren, aging parents and ongoing responsibilities. They don’t ignore that we need to Green-up the earth so they do a little something, filling curbside recycle bins with last week’s newspapers, reusing plastic grocery bags for outgoing trash. But the weight of recycling all things plastic lies mostly on the shoulders of the youth of our family. My daughter in particular, who I’ve come to think of as our Designated Plastic Recycler.

My daughter picked up the recycling initiative in college, carrying bags and boxes to neighborhood recycling centers long before it became the right thing to do. She removes names and addresses from catalogues, shreds old and junk mail and recycles any paper thing that comes into her home. If she sees any one in our family pitching out a plastic beverage bottle, she will call out “Don’t!” before we can drop it into the can. And she’s the only one in our family who knew what those numbers inside the triangles meant, long before most of us knew they were even there.

My daughter will happily take on the responsibility of any plastic bottle a family member is willing to hand over to her or pick up the bottles we leave for her at my parent’s home. She is our family’s Designated Recycler and your family can do that too. It’s a system easy to implement. The most Green-thinking member of your family, the person who flinches each time you pitch a plastic bottle, is probably ready and willing to take on the task; so make it official, starting gradually with with plastic first. Ask them if it’s okay to turn your plastic recycleables over to them. Then set up informal arrangements to make it easier to collect the plastic that would otherwise wind up in a public landfill.

My family still throws away far too many plastic containers, but when we think about it, we rinse them out and save them for our Designated Recycler. Looking across the room, I see my own plastic stash rinsed and waiting to pass on. Even my seventy-eight year old mother will warn me against throwing away her gallon apple juice bottles. “I’m saving those for your daughter,” she’ll tell me. That’s how it works with a Designated Recycler.

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