Regular readers will remember that we have been disappointed with the availability of recycling since we moved in the summer of 2008. At that time, our apartment complex did not offer the service because their previous contractor had voided the contract when tenants did not separate their trash from their recycling, thus polluting the whole process. Our first solution was to go to one of the county recycling centers, which happened to be just up the street from our grocery store. We bought lidded bins which we kept in our kitchen and hauled to the recycling center when we went shopping.
This was fine until the county decided to give homeowners larger, lidded, rolling curbside bins for collection and closed all the community recycling centers. Only the main one at the town dump remained open and that location had limited hours. Apartment complexes should have begun providing facilities for their tenants to recycle at that time, but ours didn't - possibly because of the previous issues. Our solution was to load our bins in the car and drive to the recycling center next to A Southern Season - which is in Orange County, not Durham County, thus why it is still open - and then shop for gourmet food and chocolate while we were in the neighborhood.
And that was fine until we bought the Smart Car last fall. We really weren't sure how we were going to get our big bins, which can hold two weeks worth of recycling, into our tiny car. As we were still trying to figure that out, miraculously our apartment complex started offering recycling again! Now we just had to roll our bins - which had wheels - across the parking lot to the dumpster area. Next to the industrial-size trash compactor is a small walled-off area where everyone usually dumps their Christmas trees after the holidays. This was previously the recycling center and now is again. There are six large recycling hoppers in there and we can put containers and mixed paper in them. There has always been a huge metal hopper for cardboard recycling, so we do still need to separate our paper from our corrugated cardboard.
For us, this has been fine except for one hiccup so far. That was when one of our bins, which we purchased in 2008, got filled with fruit fly larvae! We had been wondering how we suddenly had so many fruit flies in the apartment - well, that answered that, blech! So, we just threw that bin (it was plastic, after all) into the plastic recycling contents and all. We replaced it with a new one that actually has a better sealing lid. Not long after that, we replaced the other bin, too. It had had the paper products in it, so it didn't have fruit flies, but one of the wheels had broken off and was always needing to be jammed back on, plus the new ones are a better size for actually putting in the Smart Car, if we ever need to do that.
And this has been working out perfectly for us, except for one thing. Our neighbors are doing it again. No one is sorting their recycling and their trash. Even the Christmas trees they throw out at the holidays are really not supposed to be dumped there, but everyone does it and does it all year round. The recycling area has couches, TV's, lamps, once I found a box of clothes and miscellaneous items as if someone had broken up with their partner and threw all their stuff out of the house. These, and bags and bags of trash, are just piled up in, around, on top of the actual recycling collection bins. One day I was putting my trash in the correct place - the compactor - and I saw one of our complex's maintenance men moving stuff - one item at a time - from the recycling into the trash. We had the following short conversation.
Me: Why do people DO that?
Him: (shakes head) I don't know.
Me: I just want to hang up signs, 'people, sort your dang trash!'
And I do want to hang up signs, but that's not my responsibility as I am not management. Still, I think we're in serious danger of losing our recycling contract again which is not only bad for the planet, it's bad for us. It's illegal to throw recyclables in the trash in North Carolina. Individuals cannot be punished for it - how would they figure out who did it? ("We found your name on an envelope underneath a half a ton of garbage...." [ahem]). But trash collectors can be fined, which they would surely pass on to their clients in the form of price hikes, which would probably come back on us in the form of rent hikes. Come on, people, this is really obvious! Plus you're killing the planet, which is already overwhelmed with all of us using up its resources. Get with the program and sort your dang trash!