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Recycling 101

October 26, 2010

I don’t know what your city recycling programs are like, but the one in my city is rather militant. I’ve spent more time than I care to account for trying to figure out the various bins and coloured bags we are to fill and place in our alleys.

A few days ago, I got schooled on the art of recycling by my neighbour, a Chinese grandmother who is weeeeeee small and knows not one word of English. It was, no kidding, the hardest game of charades I’ve ever played.

First off, I have no clue what day of the week is actually my garbage/recycling day. Apparently, as statutory holidays appear through the year and fall on mid week days, our garbage day gets bumped and throws the whole schedule off. After a couple weeks of trial and error, I’ve figured out it’s Fridays, but come Nov 11th, it gets all buggered up again. Apparently, it’s on their website… but for some reason, my area is considered “south” when it is so not at all?! Here is another helpful instruction picture on the website, note to self: Measure distances between bins…

image (is that supposed to be a tree?!)

Secondly, the people who pillage everyone’s recycling bins, collecting refundable bottles and cans seem to  have an uncanny ability to know when you are wheeling out your bins. Like little elves, they magically appear, with their rolling carts, the moment you open your back gate. Sometimes, more than one appears and then you fear an alley brawl is going to erupt for your three empty wine bottles as they all race to swoop in first.

Ok, on second thought, I know why they show up for my recycling… a) I’m too lazy to return the bottles to the store myself and b) I always have empty wine bottles.

Anyway, me, being used to throwing everything into a bins together and having the city workers take it all away, was unaware of the complexity of colour bags and bins, until the little Chinese Grandma appeared at my side on Thursday night, waving her arms and pointing in 100 different directions. I thought she wanted my empty bottles, but no, even after I handed over stash of recyclables, she hung around and kept making a huge commotion, until my other neighbour took pity on me and came out from tending to her garden.

It would be so much easier if I had a poster like this one:

Toasters – bad; plastic bottles- good; syringes- very bad

See, SO helpful!

Anyway, apparently teaching the neighbourhood newbies the recycling ropes is the Public Service this Chinese Grandma performs, having schooled my neighbour 2 years ago on proper procedures. So my neighbour came over and translated the spastic arm waving for me.

You have to picture this wee (like Polly Pocket sized), small Chinese Grandma, with her plastic sun visor brimmed hat, standing about 5 feet from us, waving her arms and squawking commands like a General, as we place the pile of recyclables in to the correct bins. Since our household had been unaware of proper procedure, the city workers hadn’t taken our recycling for a couple of weeks, so there was a large pile to sort through. Um, oops…

As we were nearing the end of the sorting, Grandma made this Herculean lunge from across the alley, to pluck an empty bottle from among the pile. Not even a second later, she dropped the bottle like it was a hot potato and a look of pure disgust crossed her face as she realized it wasn’t an empty wine bottle, but an empty bottle of balsamic vinegar.

The look of disgust on her face was priceless.

It kind of made the whole traumatic experience worth it, just for that one moment.

And, that, is how I got schooled on the Art of Recycling.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Leah @ Why Deprive? permalink
    October 26, 2010 9:23 pm

    hahahaha awesome!!

    We used to have the different bins and bags and the whole separating paper, cardboard and plastic debacle. Thank god we dont have to deal with that anymore. I throw everything in the same recycle box and they guys take it away. The best part, theyre rather good looking! 🙂

  2. October 27, 2010 9:46 am

    When Dave and I buy a house, I’m going to pay for Chinese Grandma’s ticket to Pittsburgh to explain it all to me. I do know a little Chinese, since the majority of my family lives in China. It will be an interesting conversation. Especially because the Chinese that I know is limited to phrases like “I’m embarassed”, “too much bother”, “crazy white foreigner”, and “ice cream”. However, “too much bother” seems appropriate.

  3. October 27, 2010 11:51 am

    Hahaha that does sound confusing – we have two bins. One for garbage, one for recycling. That’s it that’s all! I put cardboard, paper, plastic and bottles into the recycling bin and everything else in the garbage. I recycle my wine bottles myself and stash the change in my car for parking money 😀

  4. October 31, 2010 6:09 pm

    it’s one of the MOST FRUSTRATING things about my old apartment – the rotating garbage pick up thanks to holiday schedules. Luckily, at my old apartment I lived with 5 boys and declared that if I was cooking dinner, they could take out trash.

    Remind me never to move back to that neighborhood without a live in boyfriend or something, okay?

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