Green Corner (October 2016)

Beyond Curbside Recycling

It is my sincere hope that future societies will look back with horrified amazement that people ever put pieces of plastic, old toothbrushes, scraps of whatnot, even baby and pet waste into large plastic bags and buried them in the earth. It seems like an absurd idea really–to bag up things, many of which were created for just one single use, and then leave them to rot away in a landfill. When I first started studying environmental science, I came across a statement in an essay on waste that has really stuck with me: “There is no ‘away’ to which things can be thrown,” These things we call trash, we forget all about them once we toss them in the bin, but of course they do not go away. Their afterlife frightens me, to tell you the honest truth. They leach toxic chemicals into our water and soil, they float in vast disgusting islands on our oceans, they occupy large swaths of land we call “landfills.”

Curbside recycling programs have come a long way and I believe will go a long way further still in our lifetimes. They do a great deal to reduce the amount of waste going to landfills, and It’s a no-brainer to put everything that is accepted into those bins. Yet even if you are taking full advantage of your curbside bins, there are still a large number of recycleable items you would be throwing into the trash. This includes batteries, lightbulbs, bubble wrap, plastic bags and plastic lids, and styrofoam. It’s actually pretty disappointing how many recycleables we need to take to the proper places on our own, but still it is good that we are able to do so. Since I’m a relatively new addition to Portland, I’ve had to educate myself recently about where to recycle some non-curbside items, and I’d like to share some of that information here, though surely much of this may be old news to many, and you may have some more to add to it as well. I’d love to hear it! I’ll go down the list I mentioned above and where I currently recycle those items.

  • Batteries: Far West Fibers
  • Lightbulbs (compact fluorescents only): Home Depot, Green Century Electronics Recycler
  • Bubble wrap: Far West Fibers
  • Plastic Bags: New Seasons accepts all but #7. I can’t find anywhere that accepts #7 unfortunately
  • Plastic Lids: New Seasons. I believe Albertson’s does as well.
  • Styrofoam: most types are accepted at Far West Fibers; peanuts however are not recyclable anywhere but can be reused by shipping stores such as UPS. Use the Oregon Metro recycler finder link below or call 503-234-3000 to locate one that accepts used peanuts.

I will start a collection bins for batteries at the school, so you can bring those there for convenient disposal.

Is there something you’d like to recycle and you don’t know where to take it?
This link will take you to the Oregon Metro site’s tool for finding a recycler. It’s really helpful.

Still thinking about getting a new reusable mug for your hot beverages this winter? I noticed New Seasons has some great Klean Kanteen insulated cups in various sizes on sale now. The housewares department at Uwajimaya also has some nice thermos options.