How Far Will You Go To Prove You Are Right?

(And will you admit it when you find out you are wrong?)



 

Oh my god … Old Spice is right.

I put down my sword. Happily defeated. Old Spice is right. I am wrong. The issue? Recycling.

Six months into our marriage I find we spend an inordinate amount of time arguing. Wait, let me qualify that. We spend an inordinate amount of time arguing every Tuesday night, the night before garbage day. My new husband, I discovered, has a weird hobby of sorting and sifting through the garbage. In fact, in previous blog posts I have alluded to this bizarre hobby.

I am trying to be a good wife and I have tried to let it go, but it keeps coming up. (Umm … I suppose that would be me continuing to bring it up.) “Why does it matter where all of our stuff goes when it leaves the house? Why do you need to sort and sift? Is recycling even a real thing? Doesn’t it all just go into one giant place? Does it really all get put back to good use?”

 

My Field Trip To Rumpke Dump (Aka Recycling Center)

This is where the story goes: I, coincidentally, was cordially invited on a field trip to Rumpke Dump. My very kind, forward thinking neighbors (who are far better recyclers than me) invited me to go along with a neighborhood environmental group to actually see where all of our garbage goes.

I was all in. I thought “this is too good to be true!” Tagging along, I could finally prove to Old Spice that I was indeed correct … there’s no such thing as recycling … it all gets mushed together. There will be no further discussion on Tuesday nights whether the yogurt container is or is not recyclable; does the label actually need to be peeled off? Case closed.

So I thought. Until I walked into the Rumpke Recycling Plant in St. Bernard yesterday. It’s also known as MRT, which stands for Material Recovery Facility. Who knew? I had no idea what to expect on an otherwise rainy Thursday. I felt like a kid on an unknown adventure with interesting people going to a garbage dump. Why not? After all, I was on a fact finding mission.

If you actually think about it, garbage is always puzzling – especially when you see it piled up. Really – where does all of our stuff go?  Week after week it goes somewhere. I think it must cross all of our minds at one point or another. Do we need to sort and sift? Or does it just go into some infinite pile of stuff? Does it really make a difference to wash the used tin foil? Better not to think about it.

As I entered the facility, full of dumpsters and conveyors and big machines hissing and rumbling, I, regretfully, realized I had no clue. However, given the opportunity, I donned a bright yellow hard hat and indulged my curiosity to find out. Or at least to prove Old Spice wrong, and at the very minimum, to end the Tuesday night debate.

“Foolish Consistency Is The Hobgoblin Of A Small Mind.”
–Ralph Waldo Emerson

Let’s just say, when you are wrong it’s best to admit it quickly and boldly, as in “I am wrong.” Mind you, I have never been known as the most environmentally conscious person. Honestly, I am not always the best at recycling. I get lazy. I am not as aware as my children … much to their disgust (wait, are they conspiring with Old Spice?).

I still buy bottled water. I still don’t quite understand the water bottle filling stations. I don’t get carrying around an empty water bottle waiting to find a place to fill it. Are there no more water fountains? Even though I’m not necessarily the most environmentally conscious person, I did always think of myself as somewhat of a conscious person, aware of what’s around me. But my field trip to Rumpke really opened my eyes.

 

Wait … Recycling Is Real?

Guess what? Paper is indeed sorted from aluminum cans; aluminum cans sorted from plastic cartons; plastic cartons sorted from paper cartons. It is all systematically sorted so that it is re-useable. It is incredible.

As we toured the facility, I stopped to realize how many more cardboard boxes there are now, thanks to Amazon and online shopping. And how many fewer newspapers there are being recycled. You are not the only one who doesn’t get the daily newspaper anymore.

Your jug of Tide is turned into water irrigation pipes. Your aluminum can gets crushed down into thin layers of aluminum. Your aforementioned cardboard Amazon box is not filling up a landfill, but being transformed and reused. Glass goes through this incredible Willy Wonka like machine and gets ground into sand. The technology, the machinery, the engineering was jaw dropping.

Our garbage is jaw dropping. Admittedly ignorant, I watched what happens when an old VHS videotape or a plastic bag gets caught in the machinery. The entire operation shuts down. I will never again put a plastic grocery bag in the recycling bin. Ever. I saw what happens when it gets stuck. I will pay attention. I will be less lazy.

Old Spice – guess what! It all gets sorted! For the sake of our marriage I went to see firsthand what a difference all of the people who care as much as you do make. Turns out … Old Spice is saving the earth, I was not.

Thank you to Rumpke for this eye opening experience. Thank you Molly Smyth and Sustainable Mariemont and to my generous neighbors and to my adorable, progressive, smart husband.

I was wrong. I am ready to sort and sift.

 

Reprinted with permission from Stuff of Life Blog. See original post here: http://stuffoflifeblog.com/2017/05/05/recycling-works/.

Lauren Chesley is a contributor to LEAD Cincinnati, Venue Magazine and Make it Better, is writing her first book and blogging along the way about the journey of being "unapologetically you" post-50 at www.stuffoflifeblog.com.