Days 365+20 DC garbage cansRecycling is good. Right? Well, sort of. Of course it is better to recycle stuff than not to, but remember those other ecology Rs – Reduce and Reuse?

This all came to mind recently as my city changed its trash collection company. They used to accept all plastics #1 – #7 but now only accept plastic bottles that have a smaller neck than the body. After many calls to the city and the new recycling company, I started to understand the complexity of the recycling system and how there has to be a way for recycling companies to make a profit from collecting our plastics. If there is no buyer for certain plastics, a for profit company won’t take it. Glass, cans, and paper continue to be profitable, but those pesky plastics are often the problem. All of this caused me to remember that as good as recycling is, it’s even better to “pre-cycle” – buy as few things as possible that are throw-aways.

Reduce: Avoid buying stuff in plastic containers whenever possible. Avoid using products that create hazardous waste.

Reuse: Use reusable water bottles. Repair clothes, shoes, household items when possible.

BUT, what to do when reduce/reuse won’t work. Here my experience this past weekend may be food for thought.Days 365+108 hazardous recycling 2Days 365+108 Hazardous recycling trunk

  1. Hazardous Waste: This was the weekend that my community collects hazardous waste. For 6 months we’ve been collecting broken electronics, lightbulbs, toner cartridges, batteries, and a broken printer. It took a special trip to the collection center but I feel virtuous.
  2. Days 365+108 Bell peppers

    Just a few of the peppers

    Too Many Peppers: My garden was a mixed blessing this summer. My beans did well; not so much the tomatoes. The bell peppers were slow to mature. BUT, all of a sudden it was the day before the first frost was forecast so I checked my sleepy peppers. Wow! I guess I had overlooked them because I picked 53 in different stages of development. Way too many for Jim and I to eat. So, I took a walk around the neighborhood and found new homes for 40 of them. I’m not sure which of the Rs covers sharing, but it felt even better than disposing of the hazardous waste.

Now back to dealing with those ornery plastics. I was near Whole Foods today so I took my #1-#7 plastics there. Normally I wouldn’t make the trip figuring that the gas and time outweighs the benefit.

Trying to do the right thing can be pretty complicated. It’s often a matter of weighing the time to do research, the bother of spending effort to do something extra, or the inconvenience of doing without an item. It’s hard to be responsible. What are the trade-offs you make?