Of Glass Houses and Recycling Bins
As soon as Kieran discovered that it was fun to put things in the trash can (including, on one occasion, Tom’s wedding ring), we taught him about the three different trash cans in our kitchen. There is the regular can, one for paper recycling, and one for plastic recycling. He is well-versed in what goes where.
We don’t have curbside recycling, so once every couple of months we load up the paper, plastic, pressboard, cardboard, aluminum cans and now glass (!) and take it to the closest recycling depot. Usually Tom goes alone, but yesterday I decided to take Kieran and show him why we separate our waste.
Our recycling depot is stationed in a small parking lot. There are ten or twelve industrial size disposal bins marked with signs: “plastic and tin cans only,” “pressboard and phone books,” etc. I would love to figure out the method behind their sorting madness. The bins are open on one side so you can walk up, dump your recycling into the appropriate bin, and move on to the next one.
Since the depot is run by the city, there is always either a city employee or a volunteer in the lot to help. Yesterday the only person in the lot was a paunchy man with bristly gray hair cut short to his scalp and an orange vest that identified him as a city employee.
He smoked most of a cigarette while he watched me park, get Kieran out of the car seat, and start pulling out the bags of recycling. After I’d gotten a good head start on my load, he took his last two drags under my raised tailgate. We worked in relative silence, Kieran paying more attention to a nearby factory’s smokestack than to what I was doing with our recycling.
The cheerless city employee took my two containers of cardboard and one container of pressboard, I emptied the seven bags of paper, plastic, and cans. We arrived back at my car for the glass simultaneously; Grumpy was sweating.
He said “You know, it would be easier if you would have pulled your car over to the other side.”
I blinked and looked across the length of the lot, which didn’t take more than a second since the lot can’t be longer than a basketball court.
I had two boxes of glass – one small box that enjoyed its first life as packaging for a twelve pack of Sam Adams “Winter Classics,” the second box larger and heavier – it was the size of a small packing box. Grumpy took the lighter box, leaving me to juggle the larger one and Kieran.
Grumpy emptied his box into the bin, and Kieran was immediately interested by the sound of breaking glass. He pointed and said “NeeNee do!” I repeated him, “Kieran wants to throw a bottle in the bin?” “Yeah!!”
“Ok,” I said as we approached Grumpy and the bin, “you can throw one in too.”
Grumpy gave me a look. “I wish you wouldn’t let him do that.”
“What?” I wondered what Kieran was doing. (I had been concentrating on not dropping the large box.)
“Throw glass into the bin.”
I was puzzled but concluded it was probably a safety precaution. Maybe he thought flying glass would hurt Kieran. So I asked. “Why?”
Flustered by the fact that I wanted an explanation, he looked down and gruffly replied, “look, he’ll miss and I’ll get glass all over the ground.”
Did he think I was going to let Kieran do some target practice with glass bottles? Whatever, I thought.
He took the box from me and swung around to the bin. Kieran and I watched while Grumpy brusquely lifted the box to dump the contents inside.
And that’s when he missed.
Several bottles came crashing down to the asphalt and shattered into a thousand pieces, each shard reflecting the smirk I was attempting to swallow.
Clearly I should have disclosed that Kieran is already madly in love with baseball and is practicing to be the next Greinke. Kieran would not have missed.
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"Of Glass Houses and Recycling Bins"
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