In writing a book about a family living inside an asteroid, I thought about how their daily lives were spent. One factor that became clear early on was that they must recycle and reuse just about everything. In a way this is like living in an Old West frontier town. Food was “canned” in reusable glass jars; old fabric found new uses in quilts, wiping rags, and smaller clothes; and tin cans became flower pots and storage areas. After all, these people knew that new items or replenishing their supplies meant a rare and expensive trip to the distant town. Another reason was that they probably didn’t want the trash to build up behind their homes. Our modern world could learn from such ideas.
I am an ardent recycler but it has become harder and more selective over the years. More than ten years ago, we took our bags of paper, cans, aluminum, newspapers to a central unit in a small town and dumped them in big bins. High school students fulfilled their community hour requirements by working there. The recycling center wanted it sorted and I didn’t care if it was in bags because I emptied the bags into the bin.
Fast forward to now. For the last ten years I’ve set up five separate “trash” cans in order to sort all my recycling and then just put each individual bag in the recycling bin for pickup. I figured the recycling people would be glad not to have to sort it themselves. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
The Recycle Porter County Facebook page has been posting do’s and don’ts and I’ve learned just how far off I’ve been. A video that they posted explained a lot about why they have restrictions on what is acceptable and not. Unfortunately, because the information has come in bits and bytes over several weeks, I became more confused than ever until I sorted through and pulled together all the information. So for those of you who want to know more, here is a condensed version of how to recycle in Porter and Lake County, Indiana.
Things to recycle at your curb (from the Indiana Waste Service page):
Paper: This includes just about most things you can think of including telephone directories, corrugated cardboard, office paper, and paperboard. No shredded paper though. Also make sure the boxes and magazines are clean. This means don’t put in that greasy pizza box or paint splattered newspaper.
Plastic: Bottles and containers only with the symbols of 1 through 5 in the recycling triangle are accepted. They must be rinsed out and clean. However, no K-cups, bottle tops or lids because they are all too small. Surprisingly so are pill containers.
Metal: Only aluminum or tin cans and steel. Don’t add the cut off or peeled off lids. This creates a hazard for the workers.
Glass: Brown, green and clear glass bottles are welcomed. The Center wants you to leave the caps on because the caps roll around in the machinery and jam it up. They also want the bottles rinsed out and cleaned. This means no sheet, broken, or window glass.
They suggest that you put everything in paper bags or dump them directly into the enclosed recycling containers. Big machines do all the sorting so no need to keep them grouped together.
Don’t rules for curbside pickup
No batteries, Styrofoam, plastic grocery bags, toys, or any form of electronics. No hangers, light bulbs, or ceramics. No plastic packing material from Amazon or anyone else.
Other Options for Recycling
Plastic grocery bags are easy. Most grocery stores have a drop-off box right inside their doors for old bags. In addition, you can add any clean cellophane wrappers like the plastic around toilet paper or Kleenex boxes. You can even add Saran wrap as long as it is clean. Also consider switching to reusable fabric or paper bags, which are recyclable, so you can stop using plastic bags.
Most lightbulbs can be dropped off at Home Depot, Lowes, and maybe even Menards for recycling, along with those rechargeable batteries that power tools use.
The Valparaiso Compost Site takes fluorescent bulbs and many electronics like TVs, computers, and disc players. They also take smoke detectors, batteries, and printer cartridges. You can drop them off at the same time as when you are getting rid of your branches from all the recent windstorms. Batteries can also be dropped off at all of these locations. Printer cartridges can also be taken to Staples or Home Depot and you can earn a small amount of cash rebates (given monthly) for each one.
Unusual Options for Recycling
Pill containers can go to Matthew 25 Ministries but you have to ebsite.
CDs, DVDs and their cases can all go to the CD Recycling Center of America. Just go to their website and print out a mailing label. Of course if you are into arts and crafts, check out Pinterest for a number of artsy ways to reuse these plastic discs.
I hope this list helps you recycle better. So often people want to do the right thing and help the Earth. We should start thinking about our home as an isolated place with limited resources even though we are billions of people instead of a few. The billions will cause more damage if we as caretakers of the Earth don’t change our mindset. We can’t continue trashing it up. Like the frontier people, in space or otherwise, we need to recycle and reuse what we have and be smarter about how much we throw away.