What is recycling today?

When I was a younger person, glass bottles could be collected, returned to points of purchase and receive 5, 10 or 15 cents in credit.

It was the 70’s and early 80’s.

Cans too became recyclable. My father worked for the canning company that made the original Coors can without a pull tab. A larger hole in one end of the top of the can and another smaller one on the other end. Both holes were perforated so they could be pushed down into the can. These were kind of the forerunner to today’s aluminum beverage cans. Oh, right, the point. The point is that even the little aluminum pull tabs from cans had value.

America said, “Wow, we are using up so many resources; let us recycle.”

We asked Americans to separate some of their garbage. To save it in these three different colored bins. One for glass, one for plastics and one for paper. The Recycle truck came by on a different day from regular trash. Americans everywhere were confused about which day was which and we often left our recycle bins on the curb longer just to be sure we didn’t miss it.

Some of us pondered how much money was earned back by trash collecting companies from recycling. We wondered if we should just recycle it ourselves directly to get the money. Sometimes we saved just the aluminum because it was easier. I think we got back $50 once for bringing in a bag of crushed cans.

All told, recycling was fairly easy. We got used to it and felt better about our role in the world even if we were not getting a discount for all the recycle we gave them.

Then came the labels on the bottom if you can find them. Only certain types of glass and plastic, no regular cans, only aluminum. Boxes must be broken down. Styrofoam was sometimes a yes and sometimes a no. Just throw all of the recycle into one big can now. They will separate it at the other end of the process.

Then came the separate line item on the trash bill. An extra charge to send the recycle truck to pick up the trash that we separated already.

One Monday I saw the trash truck come by and dump the recycle into the regular trash truck. I called and asked about it and was told I must have been mistaken.

Not long after, the recycle bin was not picked up at all. Another call found that they were having an issue that week with the trucks, but it would be picked up next week on schedule.

Now we are told we can no longer recycle glass. Any glass. Aluminum cans are still okay for now.

What is recycling in America today? Will it go the way of metric conversions on our highway system?

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