Confessions of a Half-Hearted Recycler


I remember when we first got our recycling paraphernalia from the county sanitation department. Actually, we were supposed to get it five years before, but we didn’t want to pay the materials fee. However, when the county decided to waive the charge, we no longer had an excuse, so we dutifully placed our order and they promptly delivered the items to our front door.

At first, I was excited about recycling (I’m always excited when I get free things)–all those pretty, blue plastic bags and a nice, new bin with wheels and a pull cord, no less. Right then and there, I pledged, to my family and my God, that I would be the best recycler on Pinehill Drive. After all, I am the block captain.

We went straight away to our neighborhood Walmart and purchased two additional kitchen garbage cans, came home and immediately labeled them, “Plastics” and “Paper”. I even led the way and ceremoniously threw the first recycling items into the bins, officially christening them.

I felt a real sense of pride and self-righteousness that first Thursday morning as I hauled our recycling items to the curb. I carefully positioned the bag and the bin at the road and made a point of waving to the neighbors across the way as they left for work.  

Having the recycling bins was a status symbol, of sorts. Hardly anyone else on the street was doing it and I wanted them to see that I, their fearless leader, had taken the first step to making the world a better place to live.

Things were good for a couple of weeks or so, but it didn’t take long for my zeal for recycling to wear off. I quickly realized that recycling was not fun. It was work. I was being forced to think about my garbage. I didn’t like that. I didn’t like that at all.

Before the bags and the bins came, I could walk over to the garbage can, throw my trash away and leave without a thought. Now, I was faced with the task of designating pieces of rubbish to their rightful container. This was an emotional burden I was not prepared to bear.

There have been times when I defiantly threw my trash into the wrong bin, only to return hours later because of guilt, rummage through the cans, remove the misplaced pieces, and deposit them into their appropriate pail. The struggle is real, folks.

Recycling has even changed the way I view my vacations. It used to be that I looked forward to going on our annual family vacations to enjoy the majestic view of the mountains or to hear the soothing sounds of the waves crashing against the shores of the beach. These days, my main motivation for going on vacation is to get away from the recycling bins. It’s the one week out of the year when I’m free to throw my trash in whatever receptacle that I please.

The more that I think about it, the more I recognize that recycling does not fit in with my worldview. By nature, I am a fatalist. Do I really care about saving the earth? Not so much. We’re all going to die anyway. My body will decompose and return to the dust from which it came. That’s a form of recycling, isn’t it? I figure, I’ll just do all of mine on the back end.

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