Postcard from Florida

6 Jan

Due to the fact that we have family in Florida, we get to go there for Christmas. Cue the violins now, right? No possibility of a white Christmas? Nobody feels sorry for me.

However, where my mother-in-law lives, there’s no recycling. They’ve tried to get it, but for some reason I don’t fully understand, it’s impossible for her tiny little block, which is tucked away behind some commercial real estate and is bordered by a railroad track, to get recycling services. They’ve apparently tried multiple times to get a container and pickup, but they’ve never been successful.

In Massachusetts, we recycle. A lot. I was excited when I moved here and found out that you could throw #5 yogurt containers in with the regular recycling. In Chicago, that wasn’t possible, so I had to save all of the yogurt containers I’d used, and when I had a bunch, I’d walk them down to Whole Foods, which would recycle them for you. Now I can just dump them in a bin, and away they go every week.

We also have bottle deposits here. A nickel on cans, heavier plastic bottles and glass bottles. Some people don’t bother to get their deposits back and just recycle those bottles too. I, of course, having grown up fairly thrifty, will return them. I mean, that’s 60 cents on a 12-pack of diet Coke (or beer, if that’s your thing). The Boy, who, when seeing a few bags of deposit bottles stacked up in the kitchen, will also wax poetic about how he saved bottles as a kid to get pocket money. I’m not going to admit that I like having pocket money myself–nope, I simply hate the idea of throwing away money I’ve spent. Unless it’s Christmastime, when I will toss the few deposit bottles and cans we have lying around into the recycle bucket. Those will never actually get recycled by the city–there are far too many poor people who go around and pull deposit bottles from recycling bins and cash them in because they really need the money. I consider this act my magnanimous Christmas gift to them.

Note: If my neighbors recycle their deposit bottles–which they do–I also refrain from pulling them out of the recycling bin and returning them myself for this same reason. I won’t be really gracious and give the bottle collectors mine too, but bottle deposits are really a topic for another blog, because we’re starting to go down the path of being wasteful or being miserly, throwing away money or being the millionaire next door–and why the heck did Massachusetts vote down a stronger deposit bottle law? All thoughts that I have when I deal with a deposit bottle.

Anyway, for the week or so we’re in Florida, we don’t recycle. It kills me to throw an empty water bottle into the trash. It’s even worse to see a beer bottle, sitting all alone in a freshly lined garbage can, looking forlorn and unloved, since it’s going to the dump and not the bottle deposit center.

The feeling was bad enough this year that the Boy and I would squirrel away empty water bottles and pop cans and take them to a park that did have a recycling can. Luckily, no one would question why we were chucking a half-dozen bottles into the can, when it didn’t look like we’d been picnicking–or were even very thirsty. If bottles “got lost in our car,” that was fine too. Those would up coming back to Massachusetts where they’d get their just recycling rewards. We couldn’t bring back everything–we didn’t have the space, and the extra weight wouldn’t be cost effective for gas mileage–but we did a tiny bit.

It’s really weird to be in the habit of doing something and then go to a place where it’s just not done. Recycling is one of those things. Of course you sort your trash out and have multiple cans in the kitchen–one for trash, one for paper, one for containers. Of course you drag it out to the curb separately. Why wouldn’t you? I can’t imagine how much of our country–and world–doesn’t bother to recycle and how much that affects the planet. I hope the small efforts I see all around me combat that behavior enough to make it worthwhile.


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