One man’s trash ...

BY RANDALL RIGSBEE, News + Record Staff
Posted 3/29/19

A debate over the value of recycling has been simmering for years; longer, probably, than I’ve been separating aluminum and glass and paper from the other disposable stuff our household sheds week …

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One man’s trash ...

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A debate over the value of recycling has been simmering for years; longer, probably, than I’ve been separating aluminum and glass and paper from the other disposable stuff our household sheds week after week.

It’s second nature for us to take the simple step of tossing recyclable materials into the narrow, but deep, cardboard Amazon box we keep beside our trash can solely for this purpose. Every few days we fill our re-used Amazon box with plastic bottles, pasta jars and newspapers; and once its full — or we’re tired of looking at it — we throw those recyclable items into the big blue bin outdoors, the one reserved for recyclable items. The big brown bin sitting beside the blue one, both of them parked at the top of our driveway and wheeled to the street for collection on the appropriate day, is for the rest of the trash.

Recycling these items is painless and it’s one of the things we do at our address to help keep our share of the municipal waste stream down.

But does our home’s judicious recycling routine do any good, other than making us feel good that we’re doing our part?

The answer depends on who you listen to and, perhaps, who you want to believe. Or perhaps, it’s more nuanced than that.

I’m certain from my reading on the subject that at least some recycling is beneficial, to the earth, to the people who inhabit it, and also to the municipal governments that usually oversee large-scale recycling programs. It doesn’t make sense that starting over from scratch, always with virgin materials, in the manufacture of, say, aluminum cans is better than recycling the slew of cans already available.

The debate may continue on the benefits/limitations of “recycling,” but of our collective efforts as a society to practice the three R’s — Reduce, Re-use and Recycle — I’m certain there are quantifiable benefits to much of what we do.

For example, we also keep in our kitchen, on the counter top just a few feet away from our Amazon box, a metal canister into which we place compostable foodstuffs. When the canister is full, the contents — coffee grounds, onion peelings, lettuce, rice, pasta, egg shells, bread and whatever else we can think to throw in — goes into a larger compost bin in a corner of our backyard, handily near our garden where the eventual rich, composted material ends up nurturing the tomatoes and peppers we grow in the growing season. Not diverting these biodegradable items from our waste stream just seems wasteful, and a missed opportunity. Our garden is proof.

But there’s no debate that I could imagine on the value of another effort, quietly and continually in play in our community to bolster reducing, re-using and recycling: the swap shops at Chatham County’s convenience centers.

This is the place where folks can put good, usable stuff they, for whatever reason no longer want, for others to claim and take home and use instead of merely throwing them away.

You can, of course, find some great stuff in these swap shops: books, knickknacks, furniture. There is no limit, really, to what you might run across at any given moment at these public centers. A musician friend once snagged a perfectly nice guitar case from one center and is using it to this day.

On Saturday, we lucked out at the right moment when my mother-in-law, taking her bags of garbage to one of the county centers, happened upon the exact kitchen table and benches my wife had eyed online a few months ago and, had it not been for the steep price tag, would have purchased. But she held off and, thanks to a swap shop, we found it for free.

It’s in great shape. Whoever got rid of it had even included all the screws needed for reassembly of some of the components. Once we got it home, we just cleaned it up a bit and now, near our Amazon box, we have perfectly good and perfectly new (to us) kitchen furniture.

Earth Day isn’t until April 22, so you still have plenty of time to buy a card. But observing it is easy every day, especially with such a nice resource as Chatham County’s convenience centers making the three R’s such a cinch.


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