“Recycle This!” by Bill Chatterson

Apr 8th, 2015 | By | Category: Nonfiction, Prose

I’m sick of recycling, aren’t you? It’s annoying. I hate separating all those paper product packages and folding them up or rinsing out plastic lids and sticking them in little green bins. I miss the old days when you could drive down the highway and lob out your empty pizza box and watch it travel like a Frisbee into the nearby woods. Back in those days people were still pretty much free to behave badly, but not today. Now we have to act “responsibly” and dump all our trash on the floorboard of the car. There are stiff penalties if we don’t.

I look at it this way: It’s not my fault that food companies package things in number 1, number 2, number 3, number 4, number 5, number 6, number 7, number 8, and number 9 plastic. I don’t want them to. I want them to just salt it down a little and give it to me in butcher paper like in the 19th century.

The real reason they package all this food in plastic isn’t because it keeps food fresh longer, it’s because little rectangular boxes stack better on a truck. I know their secret.

This means when I buy some lunch meat, I’m stuck with an empty package that’s a pain in the rear to get rid of. We’re like end user slaves for corporations. We meekly take care of all their tedious plastic and cardboard problems like volunteer janitors.

Don’t try to sneak off somewhere to scuttle your trash either, there’s cameras everywhere watching you. There’s no place left to go. It seems like we now live in a massive do-gooder gulag and the mean middle school truant officer is in charge.

Recycling may be a fraud anyway. Ever followed one of those “recycling” trucks around; the ones that look just like a garbage truck, except they’re painted green? I did. It went to a place called a “transfer station”.

This “transfer station” was an asphalt parking lot with a bunch of dumpsters all over the place and a tall cinderblock building. The truck I followed drove into the building and set the air brakes. A swarm of employees appeared and hunkered around the truck, and like rag pickers culled everything of value from its contents. Then the plastic stuff got moved to one corner of the building and the paper stuff got chucked in another. The rest of it, trash essentially, went to one of the dumpsters.

I found out later those dumpsters, when they’re full, are pulled out into a field and emptied into a hole in the ground. Another name for a hole in the ground where you put garbage is a “dump”.

You remember dumps. Before they were out of vogue and became “transfer stations”, 60 minutes did a story about bears in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan who lived at one of these dumps. To the opportunistic bears this dump was a yummy steady state buffet.

People used to come to watch the bears eat the trash. The people brought picnics along and they ate too. All around the dump it was good times.

That dump, like many others, has been closed down. Some influential and noisy people who saw the 60 minutes piece didn’t like the idea of bears eating from a garbage pile. It wasn’t Natural. Those bears should be chasing their prey up a tree, they said, not getting fat on human debris. Most of the people complaining about this situation lived in cities and had never even been to a dump and the only bear’s they’d ever seen were the catatonic ones at the zoo or the starving ones on Wild Kingdom.

Well peer pressure worked, and that county was forced to close its dump. The bears had to go back to eating wild blueberries, deer carrion and grubs in tree stumps. The good life was over. Thank you 60 Minutes.

I think the companies that sell me the food I eat and hence, the packaging I use, ought to be responsible for their own trash. They made this junk. How about inventing a plastic that decomposes with my apple peels and coffee grounds out in the compost heap?

Or better yet, how about inventing an edible pizza box so I can once again feel the thrill of freestyle littering, while at the same time doing something good: feeding wild animals.

The last time I saw a bear running across the highway, it looked a bit scrawny, frankly. With some effort, this could turn out to be the best of both worlds.

Defenestration-VikingBill Chatterson survived the last economic collapse, but just barely. He probably won’t survive another “downturn”, but at this point, who cares. He studied art at the University of Michigan a long time ago. He wrote poetry back then too. There aren’t many jobs in these disciplines (in case you are wondering), although he did work as an Exhibit Designer for a few years. Now he likes to play around making primitive weapons and starting fires, go figure.

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