Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - April 22, 2004

The Three Rs

Once the weather turned warm, I loaded up our van with the newspapers, folded cereal boxes, plastic milk jugs, aluminum cans and glass jars that had taken over the garage. I'm a recycler.

I started recycling several years ago. Each day I gather up the piles of newspapers we read and put them into a paper grocery bag. I rinse out used plastic milk jugs and soda bottles, use my personal trash compactor - which doubles as my right foot, and deposit the plastic items into a kitchen trash bag. My treasure trove of recyclables then sits in the garage until I have a large enough load to make it worthwhile to take them to town.

Through the cold winter months, the thought of loading and unloading the van didn't appeal to me. As the weeks turned into months, the recyclables consumed more and more space until there was hardly room in the garage for our vehicles.

So, on the first warm Saturday of the spring, Katie and I headed into Manhattan to unload everything at Howie's Recycling. We met many of our fellow citizens unloading similar items into the huge bins - one for milk jugs, one for other plastic bottles, a couple for newspapers, still more for telephone books and even separate ones for brown, green and clear glass. The sound of crunching aluminum cans and of the front loaders pushing piles of debris toward the walls was deafening. The smell wasn't bad, but it wasn't exactly pleasant either.

Still, I felt good for two reasons. The first was that Art would now quit complaining that the garage had been taken over. The second was the satisfaction of knowing that our small contribution to the piles at Howie's meant that the landfill would be less full by that amount. Since we started recycling, our family of four has gone from filling two 30-gallon trash barrels a week to one barrel.

Recycling is not a new concept. Before the days of plastic, people used scraps of metal and wood to repair barns and sheds, feed sacks to make clothing for their children and scraps of cloth to make quilts. They repaired, re-used and handed down almost everything. That spirit reached a high point during World War II, when people on the home front reduced the sugar, gas and other items they used, grew their own vegetables in Victory Gardens, and saved old tires and scrap metal to help win the war. When I was growing up in the 1950s, milk and soda pop were sold in re-usable bottles.

So the slogan - Reduce, Re-use, Recycle - promoted by environmentalists, is just a re-statement of some of the common sense ideas we grew up with. But it deserves some special attention on April 22, which was declared Earth Day in 1970.

The Environmental Protection Agency administrator says Earth Day is a time to act: "To turn off a light, compost yard waste, join a car pool, clean a stream, or plant a tree. We know there are common sense actions that will serve our common interests."

Once again, two vehicles fit easily into our garage. Now if I could just convince Art and the girls to deposit all their "recyclable" clothes into the laundry basket, maybe we would all fit as easily into our bedrooms.

2004 Index