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Friday, January 27, 2017

Fringeville #148 – Recycling Hell, Chapter One: Cardboard

When I was in the 8th grade, my friends and I decided on what I believe was the second celebration of Earth Day to save the planet by walking home from school. Our school was in Clarks Summit, Pennsylvania. We lived in Newton, about a half dozen miles away and back in the sticks. There were lots of hills, and I was tubby to say the least. But a new Ice Age was on the horizon, and we were all going to die of skin cancer when the ozone vanished unless the planet was saved, so off we trudged.

Up the hills.

Up more hills.

Up even more f$%^&$! hills.

About half way home, we knocked on a door and called my mother to rescue us. She wasn’t happy, first because I was long overdue getting home and second because we had no idea where we were and had to give her landmarks as directions: “…see, you go past the three cows, then there’s a barn with a half-painted red door. Take a left at the rotted out DeSoto in the empty field, and we’re at the house with all the chickens.”

She arrived eventually in our beat up black Ford and picked us up, serving up a tongue lashing while the Ford happily belched clouds of black smoke, each puff undermining our efforts to save the world.

One thing that did stick with me over the years was the concept or recycling. It seemed pretty straight forward: Put stuff on the curb, it gets picked up and recycled.

These days, it’s gotten more complicated. There’s a long list of guidelines to follow regarding “co-mingled items” in my town for proper recycling. Most are common sense, but some may require a degree in chemistry (what the hell are PET plastics? Is that what cat litter tubs are made of? HDPE plastics? No sir, I’m not Googling that. I have shit to do).

But in the middle of the guidelines, sits the cardboard section. It is so, so simple. Corrugated cardboard only.

So last night I’m getting the cardboard together. Corrugated pile on the left, everything else on the right. I ended up with two roughly equal piles of acceptable and verboten cardboard.

“What are you doing?” asked the wife.

“Recycling cardboard.”

“Why are there two piles?”

“The only take the shit on the left.”

“What the hell are you going to do with the rest of it?”


I hadn’t considered that. At one time, I could burn it. Now that’s a fine.

After a moment, I said, “I’ll just put it in the regular garbage.”

“But we’ll use more bags,” the wife replied.

And the plastic garbage bags (which do at least come in a corrugated box) aren’t free. Plus, there are weeks where we hit the four bag limit for garbage pickup. The cardboard might push us into a 5th bag, and the wife pointed that out to me.

“I’ll just jam more stuff in the garbage bags,” I countered.

“Don’t forget there’s a weight limit.”

Before I could think of anything else, she said: “Put it all out to recycle, like we always do. We’re not picking through the cardboard to make two piles. We already have the plastic stuff to deal with. It’s too complicated.”

I could have made a stand there. I could have. But the day will come when she will decide whether or not I enter my second childhood at  home or in a home. I can imagine being dropped off at the nursing home and hearing the family tell the staff: “Let him recycle all the cardboard. It calms him. And feed him the occasional chicken wing.”

It’s Friday. All the cardboard is out. I’m sorry, mother Earth. But I want to eat all my wings at home.

**UPDATE** They took it all. The wife is always right.

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