Some people count down the days to a major holiday, or a vacation. I'm counting down the days to my next recycling pickup.
I've lived in Baltimore County a long time — long enough to remember the recycling center at the Owings Mills Metro on the weekends. But as recycling, and the greening of America, became more important, we saw many improvements: first to curbside pickup, which ultimately reduced our trash collection to weekly; and eventually to single-stream, where we could mix all our recycling together, no longer having to bin the paper, glass, metal and plastic separately. Gone were the days of holding glass jars and bottles up to the sun at the Owings Mills recycling center to see if they were really clear or if they were tinged with green. Glass recycling was a segregated effort back then: clear, green and brown all tossed into their separate bins.
Newscasters have reminded us numerous times that we should be environmentally minded this holiday season and not throw our wrapping paper, gift boxes and other recyclables into the trash. But nobody's making this easy for us in Baltimore County — at least for those of us with Monday recycling pickup. While holiday trash pickup is rescheduled for the following day, not so for recycling. And with the back-to-back Mondays of Christmas (observed) and New Year (observed), not only did we miss recycling last week, I am not scheduled for my next pickup until Jan. 9.
With the kids having grown up and moved out, I live in a small townhouse. I have no outside recycling receptacle. It's just another trash-type can in my kitchen. I recycle a lot — generating more recycling than trash every week — but I'm only one person. It's generally not enough to overflow my can. Until now.
I've had to start being creative. The food-product recycling is in the bin in the kitchen. The gift wrap recycling is in a box in the laundry room. But as I clean up from our big Hanukkah celebration last week, the amount of food product recycling is staggering: the latke mix boxes, the tuna cans, the egg cartons, the drink cans and bottles, the foil wrappers from the chocolate coins. And there's more company coming for New Year's.
I've got the ice tea and soda bottles running through the dishwasher now, so they can be clean enough to put in a box in the laundry room. I don't like moving food-related stuff out of the kitchen. I've already washed the recyclable containers the mushrooms came in. But I look out my window and see the bins and boxes of recycling my neighbors have left at the curb since last Sunday.
I don't blame them. How is any reasonable person to figure that we'd be left in this lurch? So the garbage truck will come and waste all that recycling effort by dumping it in with the trash. All those holiday wrappings and drink containers and who-knows-what that people religiously rinse and put in their single-stream collection, thinking they are doing their part to preserve the environment: off to the landfill.
Me, I'm just glad the holidays are on some other day next year.
Lauren Eisenberg Davis is coordinator of the Maryland Writers' Association Nonfiction Group. Her e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org.