By the time I got back from the recycling center in the bucolic backwoods of somewhere in Maine, I was almost doing a full-on ugly cry. Here’s the thing: I live in a town where the recyclables are picked up, curbside, twice a month. I don’t have to sort the stuff because, well, civilization, but now I know how spoiled I am.
Duh Hubby and I volunteered to take a week’s worth of recyclables to the nearest center.
“Back in a few!” we said cheerfully to our friends back at the vacation house.
Yes, well. Not quite.
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Let it be known, the people of mid-coast Maine are extremely specific about how and what one recycles.
A guy who looked a lot like Bon Jovi approached with a clipboard as I tossed a plastic garbage bag into a dumpster.
“Excuse me,” he said, looking at me as if I’d just dumped a bag labeled “playful newborn puppies” into the bin. “Did you just toss neutral plastics into the mixed paper collection site?”
“Do what?” I said. When publicly embarrassed, my default is confused Bubba. Every time.
“You can’t put neutral plastics in with mixed paper.” He was speaking very slowly now and making little angry notes on his clipboard.
“My bad,” I said. When Bubba doesn’t cut it, I go straight to the Jeopardy! category: “Things that don’t sound right coming out of the mouth of anyone over 25.”
“Didn’t you see the sign?”
At this point, I looked around and saw many signs. I just couldn’t believe they were serious.
Translucent No. 2 milk jugs had their own container. Other Plastic, defined as “No. 1 through 7 Except for No. 2” labeled another huge bin. Four green (but of course) barrels were labeled “tin cans,” “clear glass,” “brown glass” and “green glass.”
The largest of the containers was labeled “newspapers, magazines, catalogs, phone books but no mixed paper.”
Man, they really hate mixed paper up in here.
If you, like I, were wondering what exactly constitutes “mixed paper” there was a professionally made sign labeled: “What mixed paper is and what it is not.”
“Are you believing this?” I asked Duh, who was back in the car trying to find the baseball game on the radio.
Man, you really sound like a dumbass when you say that now that I hear it.
“The recycling police are mad at us,” I explained. “Mixed paper is flat cardboard, junk mail, egg cartons, juice cartons and office paper but not shredded paper unless it is placed in a paper bag, which I assume has not been shredded.”
“Do tell,” said Duh.
“Yes, and mixed paper is NOT, even on its best day, “corrugated cardboard, newspaper, magazines, foam core, plastic, foil, ribbons, string or food scraps.”
Yes, food scraps. Who confuses mixed paper with food scraps? It’s not like you’re going to try to print out something on your computer using a few slices of bologna. At least not while anyone is looking.
Celia Rivenbark is the New York Times best-selling author of “Rude B****** Make Me Tired.” Visit www.celiarivenbark.com.