On the third morning of our packing adventure, I woke up early ready for another day of sorting and packing my grandmother’s house. I knew right where I would begin my day’s work.
I headed for the kitchen. It was time to clean out all the food that was unsuitable for donation or our own consumption. All of those recyclable food containers needed to be emptied, rinsed, crushed and put in the recycling bin. I did not mind being the one to take on this mundane task because I get abundant satisfaction out of rescuing ketchup bottles and pickle jars from the landfill.
I had already done the preliminary work of writing down the list of accepted recyclables listed on the City of Huntsville website. I taped this list to the wall in the kitchen so everyone would be aware. I had also found directions to the nearest recycling drop-off center because I knew we would have many more recyclables than the amount that the blue curbside container would hold.
With a cardboard box at my feet, I began pulling out the containers from the refrigerator. I made sure to drop the bottles into the box loudly to try to awaken Dad, Shane, Ellen and Jill. Didn’t they know we had a lot of work to do? Wake up!
Once I had cleared out the refrigerator, freezer and pantry, I sat in the white winged-back kitchen chair and began emptying the containers. I pried the lids off the bottles and jars. I squirted and poured the contents into a plastic bag. I dumped the pickle juice, lemon juice, milk and other liquids down the drain. I dumped the oatmeal, cereal, crackers and other solids into a large bag. “I’ll ask some of the neighbors if anyone has a compost pile I can dump these solids into,” I thought to myself.
Using as little water as possible, I rinsed each container. I broke down the cereal boxes and stuffed everything into four or five cardboard boxes. By now, all of my housemates were awake. Dad and I packed the Subaru full of the recyclables and headed off to the recycling drop-off center.
Following the directions from the website, we drove for about 15 minutes and then kept a look-out for A Cleaner Way Road. But, the road never came. “Maybe I wrote the directions down incorrectly,” I thought. We pulled to the side of the road to think.
Just then, a recycling truck drove by. “Hey, maybe that recycling truck is headed to the drop-off center. Let’s follow it,” I suggested.
We had to greatly exceed the speed limit to keep up with the truck. After 10 minutes, Dad and I realized the truck probably was not headed to the recycling center, so we pulled over again. We headed off in another direction and finally came upon A Cleaner Way Road. “We’re here!” I exclaimed.
We pulled into a parking lot lined with large gray recycling containers. We began pulling out the bags and boxes that smelled of ketchup, vinegar, molasses and pickles.
After sorting the materials into containers in the hot Alabama sun, our hands were sticky, brown and smelly. We got back into the car and made our way back home. The effort required to recycle all those containers was worth it to me as I thought of all that metal, plastic and paper being made into new products instead of sitting in a landfill.
During the remaining days, we generated a lot more recycling that would not all fit in the curbside container. Early one morning, I spoke to a neighbor who was sweeping off his driveway. After I told him how many recyclables we had generated, he said, “How ‘bout you just cram all the recyclables in the big trashcan and then put trash on top. No one will ever know.”
I laughed as if he had just told a joke because my mind could not conceive of such an act. He could tell I had not taken his suggestion seriously. Then I asked him if any of the neighbors had compost piles into which I could dump some of the food I had cleaned out of the kitchen. He didn’t know of any, so, sadly, into the trash the food went.
Check back next week when I tell the story of all the interesting discoveries we make while cleaning out the shed in the backyard.