Recycling saves us from our clutter and our conscience
June 25, 2008 · Updated 1:29 PM
"It's spring cleaning time, and as the old suitcases, backpacks, and curtain rods are dragged out from the recesses of the closet and the aluminum tubing from the back of the garage, remember our recycling sites and be grateful.Back in the early years, long before I moved to South Whidbey, when it consisted mostly of small self-sustaining farms, what little trash people had got put into small improvised dumps on the farm, way back by the trees. Langley had its own dump, up on the hill where the cemetery is now. I suppose the other communities had dumps too.I was here when bumper stickers on South Whidbey cars said, I saw Elvis at the Freeland dump (or something similar). That was the gathering place for junk and clutter until recycling saved us. Coupeville was too remote for the average homeowner to lug trash to. Of course, at that time, a good deal of trash was burned and a lot got dumped in out-of-the-way places.We owe much to our county recycling advocates and the people who work at the sites cheerfully accepting our clutter and garbage. Recycling is probably one of the best guilt-relievers ever invented. Don't we all feel better, almost noble, after taking our bottles, cans, papers, cardboard, and so forth, to be recycled? Actually, 80 percent of our trash can now be recycled.Each of the three centers -- Bayview, Freeland and Coupeville -- is a bit different, but it only takes a few visits to sort out what goes where. Bayview has a relatively new dumpster labeled household cardboard. Hurrah, finally we have a place where, without guilt, we can dispose of our egg cartons, toilet paper rolls, and cereal boxes. Bayview also has bins for newspapers and glass bottles. Freeland recycles everything, including plastic bottles and jugs, magazines, office paper and junk mail. The recycling center accepts all kinds of metals, and at a fee, will accept those ugly household objects, such as couches covered with dog hair and stains, old TV sets, lounge chairs shredded by the family cat. Freeland is the only site that takes cans--like soup, beans, tomatoes.Actual garbage, like the kind from the bag under the sink, is best taken to Bayview or Coupeville, unless one uses pickup cans dragged out to the edge of the road. Coupeville also takes it all and recycles the usual, except that cans and newspapers must be bundled and tied. One needs to be careful and obey the signs and regulations at the recycling sites. Just last week I was dropping off a box of printer tailings, and as I emptied the box into a barrel containing other paper, which was what I thought I should do, I heard a loud, deep voice holler, Don't put that in there! I cringed, muttered sorry and began fishing out my papers and putting them back in the box. Timidly I asked the booming voice in the bib overalls, Can I just leave this whole box now? almost adding a promise to never do it again.Truly, all the employees I've met at the various sites are extremely patient and helpful. I'm sure at times they must feel completely overwhelmed by the daily struggle with our unending trash.Although we don't see as many piles as we once did of ashes and cigarette butts littering our parking lots, parks and beaches, I think there should be a dumpster for butts. No one has come up with a way to recycle these non-biodegradable butts, but they could be collected at recycling centers and then taken to a collection point in the country that no one likes, such as a nuclear waste dump. Of course, there's the possibility that eons from now an anthropologist will find them and identify us as the butt mound people. It could be worse.I'd also like to recycle the unreusable big, thick, heavy bags once filled with dog food, cat food, bird seed, manure, and what-have-you. Maybe they could be squashed up and melted down into compost for growing hemp, and then we could have burlap bags again, which are so useful they don't need to be recycled. We could have three-legged races again at church picnics. It would be nice if old and boring tapes and CDs and passe computers, modems, games, gadgets of all kinds, were to be recycled and made into something, maybe space shuttles. I've sometimes wanted to recycle laundry: Just toss the grungy socks, the sweatshirts that look like doormats, and the unmentionable jeans into a dumpster. They could be left to mold and create gas for propelling our cars Let's keep on recycling. Otherwise, spring cleaning and our ever-growing materialistic clutter may one day bury us in our bed. "