Friday, October 21, 2011

Things of Lasting Value

There are things I worry about. I worry that the only thing of lasting value the fast food industry has produced is the No. 5 plastic drinking cup. We recycle as much as we can at our house. Our city came a little late to the recycling effort. They will accept paper products, aluminum, metal cans, and some plastics (No. 1 and No. 2). They also take glass, but they won't pick it up on the curb like they do the rest, you have to drive downtown and deliver it yourself. What keeps nagging me is the amount of plastic we use that has the triangular recycling symbol, but is a number that our recycling center does not accept (e.g. Nos. 3, 5, 6, and 7). All of that then goes into the land fill.

I also worry about all of those plastic chairs. We have a few in our back yard. What worries me is that every spring and summer, I see tons and tons of them for sale. I see them at the grocery store; I see them at KMart, Walmart, and Home Depot. They are everywhere. Since I know they get kind of junky looking out in the weather, and since I see so many for sale every year, I worry that there must be hundreds of thousands of them going into the trash, headed for some landfill. You know they will be there long after our civilization is but a blip on earth's timeline.

I worry that even though my family recycles what little our center will accept, there are many many more houses  on the block where recycling doesn't seem to be on their radar (at least I don't see a recycle canister at every home. I also worry that with all our effort to recycle, industry continues to spew out plastic products.

When I was a kid, growing up in the 1960s, we weren't very environmentally conscious. On the other hand, we were much more geared toward recycling. Milk came in glass bottles, which you would put out on the front porch when they were empty. The milkman would pick them up when he brought your next delivery of milk. Soft drinks were glass, and every soft drink machine had a rack to place your empties. If you got your drink at the store and were leaving with it, you put down a deposit on that bottle (which you could get back if you returned the bottle). We also used more paper, which is biodegradable. Paper cups, paper straws, paper bags. Of course I guess you could get into that argument of paper vs. plastic -- are you going to cut down a tree or pump out some petroleum -- and which is worse? Still I worry about all of those styrofoam cups and plastic straws going into the garbage, heading for a landfill.

Will we be able to get a handle on our non-biodegradable trash? I worry about things like that. I also wonder what we'll be remembered for in the ages to come. Will we be remembered for our music and art? Will we be remembered for our scientific achievement and technological advancement? Will we be known for the strides we have made toward freedom, liberty, and equality? Or will we be remembered for all that plastic we left behind?


  1. good points. You are right to worry. What keeps me from going crazy is the adage, "Think global, act local."

  2. I'm with you Charles. Where I live recycling doesn't exist. We have to take everything somewhere else.
    I've been driving to Birmingham to the place on the southside to recycle my newspapers and other stuff.
    Not sure what the answer is when it comes to the plastic.

  3. The Alabama Environmental Council sponsors a number of drop off collection sites for recycling materials. The one in downtown Birmingham is at the corner of Second Ave & 24th Street North (2431 Second Avenue North). You can find other locations listed at

    Visit for more information about recycling and the environment.


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