Ross Murray's Border Report
Ross Murray
Ross Murray
is a freelance writer living in Stanstead, Quebec. You can reach him at
Posted 07.07.05
Stanstead, Quebec


Recycling do's, don'ts. and dunnos

I read last week that my town will soon provide me with a bigger, better, and -- who knows -- maybe even bluer recycling bin, the kind on wheels you roll out to the curb.

It's also the kind that, if you are so inclined, you can throw a kid inside and wheel up and down the sidewalk. (Not recommended for steep hills.)

I also read that the bins cost $67 but the town will be charging $70, making a small profit of $3 per house. The rationale for this is that $70 is a nice round number. I can't argue with that, especially since undoubtedly this extra revenue will be put towards publishing a recycling how-to guide. Undoubtedly.

Meanwhile, in the absence of such a guide, I'd like to offer my own recycling advice, based on personal experience.

First of all, what is recyclable? Tough question. No one really knows for sure so we recycle pretty much everything and hope for the best.

That's why recycling depots have sorters. If something's not recyclable, they'll pull it out and throw it into the garbage, and they can deal with the guilt. That's what they're paid for.

For example, besides the usual paper, plastic and tin, we've recycled:

broken beach pails
school binders
glass figurines
bubble wrap
squirt guns

Obviously, some things should not be recycled, for example:

medical waste
anything that's glowing green in an ominous way

Next, do you have to clean food containers before you put them into the recycling? Not at all. Bacteria is key to the recycling process. You can't produce cheese without bacteria, right? Same for post-consumer products.

The scum at the bottom of your chocolate milk jug, for example, acts as a catalytic emulsifying isotope. And those are big words. Plus washing wastes water, and if we waste water, the terrorists win.

Speaking of containers, it's important to pay attention to the recycling symbol usually found at the bottom of jars and plastic tubs. This is the environmental equivalent of the smiley face, there to remind you that it feels good to recycle.

The number on the symbol represents how good you should feel about yourself for helping the planet. Congratulations: that margarine container gives you Level 5 happiness!

Next, do you need to separate your recyclables or can you mix everything? This depends on the collection method. You should contact your municipality to determine whether there's a specific method you should be doing badly or another method you should be ignoring altogether.

So you've got all your jars, tuna tins, and unopened bills ready to go into the recycling. Now what?

Well, at our house, it's a meticulous seven-step process as follows:

1) Place the recyclables on top of the stove, making sure burners are not on. Yes, this is a fire hazard but the elevated risk is a good motivator to move quickly to Step 2.

2) Move recyclables from the top of the stove into the box/bag/heap beside the stove next to the back door. Keep this collection here until it becomes so big that the back door can no longer swing open all the way.

3) Move collected recyclables onto the porch.

4) Repeat Steps 1 through 3 until you get around to Step 5.

5) Take boxes/bags/heaps of recyclables to garage where the two small blue bins are located. Jam recyclables into bins.

6) Repeat all of the above until recycling day, at which point cart bins to the curb. If you have small bins you will need to make several trips to collect the overflowing items that spill out as you walk.

7) Chase down items that have blown onto neighbour's property (optional).

It's really that simple. Mind you, this procedure is based on small bins and will be modified somewhat once our $67 - er, I mean $70 roll-out bins arrive. For starters, make sure all kids have cleared out of the roll-out before setting it by the curb. Children are not recyclable.