I’m from Houston, Texas. I thought the town I went to college in Illinois was tiny and it was over 30,000 people. Somehow, due to having one month to find a place to move with three dogs and a lower budget, we ended up in a tiny town in central Florida. Population 657 as of last year (and I think they counted cows). We don’t have a mailbox, but the “city” provides a PO Box. We are “lucky” -according to town hall- that we have home-to-home trash pickup. It was and is still a culture shock for me.
I shouldn’t have been surprised that recycling wasn’t considered a big deal here. When I went to town hall to ask about it, it went a little something like this:
“Hi, my husband and I just moved to town, and we noticed that we don’t have a recycling bin?”
“Yes, trash pickup is every Wednesday.”
“That’s great, but I was wondering about recycling.”
“All trash pickup is on Wednesdays.”
“So recycling is picked up on Wednesday?”
“No, trash is.”
Great talk, right? After googling, I realized we don’t have a formal recycling program set up in my town or nearby towns. The county does, kind of. So, today, I went on a mission to recycle.
So far we have been keeping our recycling in an old box for eggs that my husband had and a box leftover from our move that has some convenient handles. This is about a month’s worth of recycling, not including all the boxes from when we first moved in.
The drive took about 20 minutes, but it’s nice outside today and I got to pass by lots of beautiful farmland and gorgeous oak trees. This is what the majority of the area looks like around where we live, other than the lovely Turnpike.
Hidden down a road with little signage, I had to check in at a gated entrance and confirm I was just recycling household items before I could enter the area to actually recycle. So I check in, go in, and there are 4 green bins in the 4 corners to recycle in. In the middle is an area clearly devoted only to scrap metal like old fridges, coke machines, and parts off of vehicles.
The first thing I noticed was the smell. This recycling area is a part of the Solid Waste Management for the county and the landfill is actually closed. The landfill, however, is huge. It’s huge and the smell is horrible and it is RIGHT next to the Animal Services building. I just found out through searching the local articles in my county that the landfill has been closed for 11 years. Eleven years, y’all. And it’s still a mountain of waste and stench. And the clearest thing I could make out of that mountain of waste? Plastic grocery bags and water bottles. It was heartbreaking.
Also heartbreaking? How little we can actually recycle. I couldn’t recycle any plastic containers at my recycling center. So, when and if my Tupperware’s lives come to an end in our home, I can’t recycle them here. I don’t know of anywhere around us I could. So what am I supposed to do with them when they’re completed ruined and phased out of our lives? Throw them in the trash, so they can sit in another closed landfill in the future?
Recycling is supposed to be a thing we do to help the earth. But then a third of the “recyclable” items I have in my home, I can’t actually recycle anywhere that I know of. And what use is it if the plastic items I recycle get turned into a plastic bag that can’t be recycled? I don’t want what I do recycle to end up being in a landfill.
If I wasn’t already interested in being zero waste and trying to go as plastic free as possible, I would be now. Now I’m committed.