The Uphill Slide

There is always something.

Do-Good, Feel-Good


The trailer was sitting there with metal scrap that didn’t belong to us. My husband was now in the scrap for cash business. He would probably be cleaning up our metal scrap soon and taking that discarded air conditioner sitting near the burn pile. Once we called someone else to clean up our metal scrap, even the burned metal in the fire pit. The thing about owning land is you have your own garbage dump out of sight.

My husband should take over my cell phone number once owned by a scrap dealer. Jason obviously went out of business, but I still get calls for him to pick up old appliances. In fact, I can’t get T-Mobile to change the name on caller ID to mine instead of his. The last time I called them about it, they sent my case to the expedited department. That was months ago.

I recycle the things that I can. I’ve done it for a while although I never got my whole family enlisted in this effort. I was often garbage diving to retrieve those recyclable items. I took aluminum and glass to sell at Greco’s along the Allegheny River. But when Armstrong County pulled in the recycling trailers to a town near me, I started giving them my recycling. I was losing the money, but if I considered the fluctuating prices and my time and gas to take them to Greco’s, it seemed a valid trade-off. Of course, if I were collecting a load of scrap, then it would make sense to sell those cans and bottles too. Every bit adds cents to the cash pot.

I followed the guidelines for acceptable materials at those donation trailers, #1 and #2 plastic jugs and bottles, aluminum and bi-metal, and glass. They collect other things at their center. I brought them only the acceptable items but sometimes saw the unacceptable sitting beside the trailers. I was afraid they would stop bringing the trailers, punishing us all for one person’s actions. That is a common tactic; if possible we are expected to police our fellow citizens making them accountable for not being a rule-follower.

Currently all plastic is forever in our lives. The lifetime of plastic is centuries longer than mine. Everything plastic ever produced since its development is still out there somewhere, in a landfill or floating beneath the ocean. Have you ever watched Plastic Paradise, free to watch with a subscription to Netflix? Watching documentaries always spurs me to action to change my lifestyle. After watching Earthlings, I swore off meat for a few days; it didn’t take me that long to reject my vow. Then I watched La Parka, nominated in 2015 for an Oscar in the short documentary category. That was a gruesome inspiration to stop eating meat too, except this man was supporting his family with that work. He took the job thinking it was temporary until he found something else; 25 years later, he was La Parka.

My son recycles in Pittsburgh, and now Cary and I do too at the apartment. My grandson is not quite into it yet. He throws his half-eaten bananas and pieces of string cheese in with the recycling and throws recycling goods into the garbage. He is quite food-wasteful. And he is also a big consumer of plastics with his plastic bat and plastic kitchen and plastic cars and plastic hula hoop and his plastic battery car in Cowansville. Even the bins holding his toys are plastic. The truth is that we could probably content him with kitchen utensils. But even some of them are plastic. And he does love that ball and bat; he’s a natural.

It’s easier to recycle in Pittsburgh because it goes out with the garbage, and they take so much more. Not as much as on the West Coast, but still better than Armstrong County. It probably all comes down to the costs of recycling. It feels good, but it’s not free. Does it pay for itself? Should some of the cost of recycling be borne by the companies that produce the items, especially plastic? I don’t set my recycling out with the garbage. I take it to the Construction Junction on my way to somewhere else.

I’m not a zealot. Do my efforts have an impact? I don’t know, but it seems worthwhile to recycle. Recycling has lasted longer than my vegetarianism, but I still buy too many plastic goods. I sometimes forget to take my reusable bags into the store and feel guilty when I see that plastic bag clinging to a tree along the trail.

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