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Thursday, June 16, 2022

A Week Ago I stopped Recycling. Now I Feel Like A Terrible Person

So far, this has been the summer of shingles. Four words that describe shingles? Painful, grumpy, isolated, and yes, electrifying, but not in the good way. When Senia Mae heard of my malady, she said, "but Mama, that's an old person's disease and you're not even fifty!" I know that comment was intended to make me feel better. It didn't. My shingles suddenly felt more painful, and I was more grumpy, which made me want to go hide in the closet so I could isolate myself from the stress of summer. Part of that stress? Our local recycling drop-off stopped recycling due to budget cuts. 
I want to believe I will go to all ends in order to save the earth and the wellbeing of its inhabitants. Most of the time I am successful at believing the story I am telling myself, but lately life has been crazy and painful. I choose to live in the country, so recycling pickup at my home is not an option. There is a county recycling center but it is twenty five minutes in the opposite direction of my daily travels. The Catholic martyr in my head, the one who always talks down to me is saying, good people will make the effort anyway. Catholic martyr, I see you and I hear you.

The first day of non-recycling our garbage can filled up in what felt like five minutes. I peeked in the can only to witness a messy, hodgepodge of plastic Simply Lemonade containers and cardboard wrappers mixed with coffee grounds, banana peels, and every other discarded household item that was going to be dumped and forgotten in a landfill. The tightening in my jaw made the vein in my temple pulse in synch with my increased heartrate. My body can't lie just like Shakira's hips don't lie. I was lying to myself thinking I could just stop recycling without being overrun by guilt.

I remembered a 1970's television ad from my childhood in Massachusetts. An older Native American man, complete with the long braided ponytail and turquoise beaded headband, was casually walking through the woods. The camera zoomed in on his weathered, leathery skin, showing a solitary tear rolling down his wrinkled face as he speared trash with his wooden walking stick. He was crying because of thoughtless humans, specifically ones who litter. Now, I was the one making him cry. And what kind of person does that?

Going back into the garbage can, I pulled out the plastic covered in coffee grounds, rinsed it off, and set it aside in the blue recycle tote. That's enough for today. I made one step in the right direction. Then, passing through the store this morning, I spotted this. Maybe there's still hope after all!

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