Thursday, July 30, 2015

How you live -- recycling plastics

I didn't know it at the time, but I first encountered the idea of recycling when I was much younger and learning to fly fish. That's when I read Lee Wulff's famous statement “Game fish are too valuable to be caught only once.” Catch and release fishing is one form of recycling a resource.

old barns with little or no plastic can be deconstructed and recycled
old barns with little or no plastic can be deconstructed and recycled
Photo by J. Harrington

Bioregional living includes the recognition that nature doesn't produce waste, resources are recycled and natural economies are circular. One way to avoid waste is not to produce it in the first place. Another is to find alternate uses for products when their primary purpose has been served. A third is to recycle products that aren't suitable for reuse. I don't know about you, but I keep forgetting that the concept to "reduce, reuse, recycle" what would otherwise become "waste" is actually a hierarchy. Sliding down that hierarchy to recycling brings us to today's bioregional question.

bookshelves made from recycled barn roofing boards
bookshelves made from recycled barn roofing boards
Photo by J. Harrington

What types of plastic are accepted by your regional recycling center?

Minnesota counties have long played lead roles in Minnesota's solid waste management system. Recycling legislation was enacted in 1973. [Full disclosure: I have from time to time over the years worked in and on the periphery of the Twin Cities Metropolitan Area solid waste planning sector.]

Chisago County requires household waste collectors to provide recycling collection including: Chisago County Curbside Recycling "Plastics: milk jugs, water, soda, and juice bottles, condiment, dish, and detergent bottles, shampoo, soap, and lotion bottles. No plastics without a recycling number stamped on it"

Our household waste collection service accepts: "Plastic containers marked with a number 1-7 recycle logo. No plastic bags." So the answer seems to be "all plastics identified as recyclable."

[UPDATE: Meanwhile, the search for sustainable plastics continues.]

The Bear at the Dump

By William Matthews 

Amidst the too much that we buy and throw   
away and the far too much we wrap it in,   
the bear found a few items of special
interest—a honeydew rind, a used tampon,   
the bone from a leg of lamb. He’d rock back   
lightly onto his rear paws and slash
open a plastic bag, and then his nose—
jammed almost with a surfeit of rank
and likely information, for he would pause—
and then his whole dowsing snout would   
insinuate itself a little way
inside. By now he’d have hunched his weight   
forward slightly, and then he’d snatch it back,   
trailed by some tidbit in his teeth. He’d look   
around. What a good boy am he.
The guardian of the dump was used
to this and not amused. “He’ll drag that shit   
every which damn way,” he grumbled
who’d dozed and scraped a pit to keep that shit   
where the town paid to contain it.
The others of us looked and looked. “City   
folks like you don’t get to see this often,”   
one year-round resident accused me.
Some winter I’ll bring him down to learn   
to love a rat working a length of subway   
track. “Nope,” I replied. Just then the bear   
decamped for the woods with a marl of grease   
and slather in his mouth and on his snout,   
picking up speed, not cute (nor had he been   
cute before, slavering with greed, his weight   
all sunk to his seated rump and his nose stuck   
up to sift the rich and fetid air, shaped   
like a huge, furry pear), but richly
fed on the slow-simmering dump, and gone   
into the bug-thick woods and anecdote.

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