Sunday, January 4, 2009

Recycling Rant

Is anyone else living in City of Austin as dissappointed as I am about the single-stream recycling monstrosity? This thing must weigh 25lbs EMPTY. I know for a fact my 91-year old neighbor Bertha is not going to be dragging this to the curb anytime soon (despite her impressive exploits with the concrete birdbath). Once the dumpster is full of its every-other-week pile of stuff, who knows what the gross tonnage could be.
On the other hand, it's hard to imagine ever filling this trash bin up, short of hosting a beer bash every week. I have barely approached one-sixth of its capacity since I've had it. Admittedly I'm a single person, but I don't remember filling up the old blue bin very often even when I was running a 4-person household. And the City, in its infinite wisdom, will not provide a smaller single-stream bin--one size must fit all.
Plus, there's something intuitively harebrained about the single-stream concept. I was perfectly content with and capable of separating my paper, glass, and plastic. It seems like this division of labor made perfect sense: it forced us to reckon with our own recycling destinies, consider the volume of our personal output, and take some responsibility for its disposal. With this new process the City has robbed us of a noble feel-good pastime and passed the sorting onto machines or people which must incur costs we taxpayers will have to pay for. How can this be good?
One final carp: the color of the bin. Who chose this toilet-bowl blue? Is there anyone who yearns to see this color EVER? Not found in nature, this blue is a visually demoralizing eyesore. At least the regular trash bins are a neutral gray, beige, or army green. One can hide them discreetly behind a/c units, bushes, garage walls, etc. Not so the screaming blue of the single-stream bin. And being so large, the bin is more of a challenge to store in an out of the way spot and so more likely to be visible in side yards and utility areas. The bins are an unsightly blight in our neighborhoods, yards, and streets.


Diana said...

Yeah - you tell 'em! We're outside the City, but I totally agree with your assessment of the functionality, stupidity in not letting people separate it all, and the color.

Anonymous said...

My family of four has filled our blue bin up to the brim every two weeks since we've gotten it. Admittedly, a move and Christmas accounted for a lot of the recycling. But we produce a huge number of flattened cereal and tissue boxes, milk jugs, and empty canned goods on a weekly basis. In fact, I was wishing the pick-up would still come every week instead of every two weeks.

I actually like the dump-everything-in-one-bin approach, and my husband loves that he no longer has to take non-corrugated cardboard to a special recycling bin at a local middle school. However, I totally agree with you that these are MONSTER bins. They weigh a ton, they do not blend into the landscape, and it's hard, from a designer's and a homeowner's point of view, to figure out where to put the dang thing.

vertie said...

I agree with your points, but I have to admit I did a little happy dance when the new cart arrived. A few months before single stream I finally read the city's list of exactly what it recycled and was shocked to see how little it took. The plastics alone were so limited yet my eco-guilt so extensive.

But if anyone can come up with an attractive way to disguise the cart, I'm betting it will be you. Maybe you can consider it your next canvas?

Anonymous said...

Here at the ESP we also fill the monstrosity up with no trouble at all...well we do like our red wine, ahem. I was so tired of the smaller blue boxes, we ended up with two of them plus a really attractive laundry basket! Try disguising that in the landscape. The front of our house was starting to look like the Beverly Hillbillies on collection day. I was so happy when the Orca arrived.

Loved the customization idea Vertie - a series of snap-in/on molded panels perhaps, offering a series of nature themes? I like it, not sure if the city would take issue though? I have manufacturing resources in China:)


Anonymous said...

Shouldn't it really be the blue whale, ESP?

Libby at Aurora Primavera said...

Thank you Eastside for this dead-on moniker. From here on out, it's Orca, baby! Maybe I'll paint an eye on it, ala the Southwest Shamu plane.

Anonymous said...

I live in a neighborhood that was fortunate to be one of the test neighborhoods for these recycling carts, so I've been using it for two years now. It's the best thing I've ever found. The types of cardboard, plastic and paper that the city now picks up expanded by 10x at least from the older, smaller bins (that didn't fit into my home anywhere). I hardly have any regular trash anymore, and my recycle bin (for 2 of us) is overflowing every two weeks. Sorry you don't like it yet, but perhaps you'll learn to love it! I think it's the best thing the city has done yet.

ConsciousGardener said...

I wish we had more room actually, we fill the thing up weekly and have to mash it down by the time relief arrives. It is HUGE! and heavy...but putting it all together seems easier, though not for the receiving end...

Lori said...

I agree that the new recycling bins are heavy and rather larger than I expected, but there are three people in my house and we filled up the old blue bin to overflowing every week, to the point where if it was windy on trash pickup day, we'd be picking up crushed gallon jugs from across the street after the pickup came by.

If we add cardboard and newspaper to the new bin, I think we'd fill that sucker up, and I'm glad I don't have to separate everything, since tying up the cardboard was quite a pain.

Maybe they should do something like they do for the regular trash bins, where you can opt for small to large, depending on the needs of your household.

Anyway, judging from the comments, it looks like our blue bin is gonna be nicknamed Moby Dick. ;D

Anonymous said...

OK, I'm late to the show. The blue bucket was harder to carry for me. But why complain about a program that pays the city money for our recycling that replaces a program that cost the city money.

And whenever I used to put our cardboard it rained.

Not perfect, but perhaps better.

Libby at Aurora Primavera said...

I have not seen any evidence that the city's new recycle can is making us money, rather than costing us money and I would wager this is not true; if anything the city's cost should be reduced since the collection days have been reduced. I don't understand why if the regular trash bins come in sm-med-lg, the recycle can't also. The whole point being to generate less trash and to incent people (by offering cheaper rates to those who use smaller bin). And again, if I'm a healthy middle aged woman who can barely move this thing EMPTY, what about older and infirm people?