Earthworms’ Castings

With Jean Ponzi

Recycling Forgiveness

I got lazy recycling, with awful results. 

One Tuesday night this fall I mistakenly hauled our blue cart out to the street. Wrong! Recycling gets collected on Thursdays. Yard waste morning is Wednesday, in my City neighborhood. What was I thinking? 

I wasn’t. I was flaking along, unfocused and probably crabby, distracted by whatever doo-dah I was doing that day.

I realized my day-of-week error at bedtime, but I neglected to pull the cart back in. I figured I’d be up before the 7 o’clock hour city truck runs. Self-delusion, compounding sin.

Wednesday, bright and early, the truck came by — and dumped our recycling into its yard waste load. 

In this one week, we had a full bin of cardboard. We had culled our collection of boxes and let dozens of excellent cartons go. Recycling responsibly: the right stuff flattened, clean and dry. Wasted.

Plus, smartass greenie me, I have got in the habit of pulling to the curb the carts of the college frat house on our street, since the residents never do it. I could write a note to advise them, but I drag their carts myself instead of empowering those guys. Their recycling is at least half-full of aluminum cans, reliably every week, pandemic notwithstanding. 

Sure, the city driver could have noticed we had two BLUE carts on the street and passed them by. Yard waste and landfill trash go in the GREEN carts on their collection days. But who put them out there? Mz. Green Knows the Answers. Big whoop. 

Thanks to my lax states of space and sloth, two batches of valuable stuff not only didn’t make it to the recycling plant, they contaminated an entire load of organics. I felt awful, blamed myself. Positively wallowed in miserable guilt. And shared my toxic feelings with husband, friends – and now with you!

There is redemption in this dismal tale.

As operator of the Green Resources Info Service, on my job for the EarthWays Center of Missouri Botanical Garden, I’ve been responding all year to people craving ways to recycle the tide of stuff — especially plastics — that COVID-19 has flooded back into our lives. 

The take-out boxes, single-use cups, utensils and the plastic they’re wrapped in, glutting our trash to help restaurants survive. The ghastly renaissance of plastic bags from stores rightly protecting workers by banning our reusable bags. The garden pots and trays piled up from spring and fall planting seasons, with Pot Recycling suspended this year due to tanked recycling market values for these already negative-value plastics. And those 2020 Demon Litter Bits: disposable masks and gloves.

From ten or a dozen callers each week, I hear despair in their voices. Good souls, simply wanting to do The Green Thing, thwarted by circumstances beyond our control. I hear this is heartbreaking. More often than not.

Doo-dah is swirling around our lives, our society, our entire species. We feel trauma, demands, expectations and — for many of us who acknowledge Responsibility — the deeply driving desire to do more. Yet the real constraints of this time limit our precious 

Ability to Respond.
Let’s use this time, when Nature is our refuge, to explore what Nature embodies with grace: the complement to more which is simply, elegantly LESS. 

Let’s use this awareness, energized by forgiveness, to help grow our species beyond being Disaster on the Hoof, within the limits of our lives. Let’s responsibly recycle our destructive habits, including blame. 

And get right stuff on the right days, into our carts.

Jean Ponzi keeps plugging away Greenly, hosting weekly conversations through Earthworms, her podcast for KDHX St. Louis Independent Media, and as Green Resources Manager for the EarthWays Center.