The City of Rochester, NY is running a Single Stream Recycling Pilot Program, and the first of the new totes have been delivered to the participants. First, before it even crosses your mind, don’t feed your new blue tote a TV. Doing so will result in your new blue tote getting seriously ill and you getting an unpleasant fine of $100. You might have not even been thinking of cramming your old TV or computer into your new tote because it’s now illegal to even leave your e-waste at the curb in New York State—let alone making your new tote sick with it. But your tote can and should be fed a lot of things, which will make it grow and get strong.
Basically, totes like recyclables. It likes them clean and empty. Like feeding your tote an old TV, your totes does not like rotting, festering ‘ingredients’ lingering inside your recyclables because these will make your tote feel wretched too.
Your new tote, although very hardy, needs some TLC to live a long healthy life. Below, I have tried to answer some of what might be your most pressing questions about your new totes. Complete disclosure: I am not an authority on totes (or recycling) but I was chair of the Rochester Sierra Club’s Zero Waste committee for a couple of years; the City sent us participants a flyer on the program, and the City has provided much of this information here: http://www.cityofrochester.gov/residentialrecycling/
If you don’t feel like surfing over to the City’s Single Stream Recycling site, or you don’t have an Internet connection at the moment (which would be odd, since you wouldn’t be able to read this article either), I will try and anticipate some of your questions regarding the new program:
- What does your new tote like to eat? Ans: paper, boxes, cardboard, plastic, glass, and metal. Metal like metal pots and pans, pie tins, licenses, plates, aluminum, tin, steel, or aerosol cans. Not metal like cars, trucks, or tractors.
- What doesn’t your tote like to eat (besides TVs, cars, etc. that I’ve already mentioned)? Ans: garbage, Styrofoam (even if numbered), electronics, ceramics, dishes or glassware, food waste, plastic bags, hazardous waste, light bulbs, window glass or mirrors, electrical cords, hoses or ropes, syringes/sharps, and yard waste. (I might add here that a little common sense in feeding your tote would go a long way in keeping it healthy.)
- Yipes! What do I do with all this stuff that that will make my new totes sick? Ans: Most of this stuff, especially hazardous waste, should be taken to the county’s eco-park. Many recyclables can be taken to recyclers who make a profit from your waste and thereby keeping a market for this stuff thriving, instead of tearing up our land for more stuff like electronics. Yard waste should be composted or put out at the curb in the City on your scheduled leaf-pick-up day in the fall. Food waste should be composted, which is to say, returned to Mother Earth from whence it came. Start composting. Or, just throw it all in the garbage, which is to say landfill it, where this rotting resource that could be enriching our soil will instead release methane (CH4) a greenhouse gas many more times more potent than carbon dioxide (CO2) into atmosphere our making Climate Change worse. (Are you feeling the guilt?)
- How were the test participants selected and why weren’t you chosen? Ans: The City says: “You and your neighbors are among Rochester’s top recyclers…” (mentioned in the flyer you did or did not receive). This sounds almost too charitable to be true, so the real answer might have to do with your tax returns. (Are you feeling the paranoia?)
- Where in the City are the test participants located? Ans: There is a secret route and may be decoded in a couple of ways. One, obviously just follow the trucks that pick up the blue totes. Two, find the secret document floating around the Internet that has the route on it. Three, ask the City to reveal the route.
- Does this single stream system mean I don’t need to take reusable stuff to reuse centers, just feed them to my tote? Ans: Absolutely not! Clothes, books, magazines, eyeglasses, furniture, working gadgets, and many, many other reusable items should always be reused. Many charitable organizations and business thrive and help others to thrive by finding homes for used stuff that still has a life. A single stream recycling program is not a substitute for reuse.
- How will you know if your tote is growing and getting stronger? Ans: The City of Rochester’s test program will expand to include more participants, until it covers the whole city. Then your garbage container will shrink because you won’t have much waste anymore and the world will return to being a sustainable thriving environment instead of one headed to the waste bin of history because of too much freaking waste. (Are you feeling the soap box lecture coming?)
- What’s the big deal about the City’s single stream pilot program? Ans: No sorting required.
- Do I have ulterior motives for writing this article? Ans: Yes. I’m hoping to get everyone to understand the link between recycling and Climate Change. (Ah ha, you knew it!) “Stop Trashing Our Climate” is a report that connects the dots between your waste getting landfilled making Climate Change worse. It’s not a long report.
- What is Climate Change? Ans: It’s not pretty. See below:
1. “Climate change” means a change of climate which is attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that alters the composition of the global atmosphere and which is in addition to natural climate variability observed over comparable time periods (Climate Change, Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC))