Just sorting things out

By Kris Ferrazza | Apr 05, 2019

Lots of blame in the recycling game.

If my name ever appears among the divorce decrees printed in this local newspaper, you will know the grounds: recycling wars.

While most marriages are tested by the pressures of raising children, financial strain or infidelity, the biggest threat to my otherwise happy union is solid waste management. Paper, glass and plastic. Newspapers, mixed paper and cardboard. Tin cans. Milk jugs. Magazines.

Just thinking about it raises my blood pressure 10 points.

Don’t even get me started on the bags. Clear bags. White bags. Recycling bags. Contractor bags. We’re drowning in a sea of plastic as we try to save the planet from, well, more plastic.

Saving the planet is a lot of pressure, and when your partner in life doesn’t see how dire the situation is, it can make you, well, a bit agitated, shall we say.

Most days, my husband and I are a team. After 28 years together, we have a shorthand unique to long-timers and old-timers. Things run pretty smoothly around our house. But every four weeks, on the first Wednesday of the month, this marriage is put to the test.

Welcome to trash day.

Sometimes it involves quiet muttering, while other days end with open hostility. Accusations fly. Bags get dragged in and out. Voices are raised. (OK, one voice is raised.) And things are said that cannot be taken back.

This month, in the heat of the moment, I actually threatened to run away with the trash man. “At least he has a healthy respect for recycling,” I remember shouting. I didn’t even care that the poor man is already married. Or that he clearly isn’t interested in a lunatic wife.

My husband wasn’t impressed. I half expected him to slide his wedding band off his finger and toss it into the newspaper recycling bin. (Because that’s where he often puts the metal.) But he didn’t. And I digress.

Now I know this behavior is not healthy. It is not normal. And it certainly isn’t acceptable. I don’t advertise it on social media, where my accounts are sanitized for your protection. In my cheery posts, there is nary a recycling bin in sight. We’re always smiling, our daughter looks content, heck, even the dog is wagging her tail. Sorting of trash is never mentioned.

But they say admitting you have a problem is the first step on the road to recovery. So here goes: My name is Kris Ferrazza and I am a recycling zealot. My dirty little secret is out. I want my tin cans and glass jars clean with the labels removed. Milk jugs rinsed and emptied. Cardboard flat. No contamination in my game.

Instead, trash day at my house is like Christmas morning. You just never know what you’re going to find at the end of the driveway.

One month it’s a dozen milk jugs all strung up like the catch of the day sitting atop the household trash. Cute. The next month it’s 40 flattened cereal boxes of all shapes and sizes in a white bag next to the household trash. Why?

My husband truly believes the trash guy has time to pick up each customer’s trash, feel it over like it’s a wrapped birthday gift, shake it and hold it up to his ear to detect whether it’s trash or treasure. Then he need only use his X-ray vision to determine if it’s glass, tin, cardboard or plastic.

“You do realize our recycling is going to the incinerator,” I said. “Why do we bother recycling?”

This month pushed me over the edge. I found my immaculately clean glass jars bagged up and disguised as trash, sitting right next to ... you guessed it, the trash.

Trying to stay calm, I raised the subject in the form of a question.

“Why would we wash, dry and store glass jars for six months, only to hide them in trash bags and put them out next to the garbage, I wonder?” I asked, pretending to be curious.

He sighed.

“Because those are the bags you told me to use for recycling,” he said wearily. "You don't think he can tell that's glass for recycling?"

And we were off to the races. I passionately defended the busy trash hauler and attacked my own husband, bringing up everything from climate change and polar bears to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Then he said something that stopped me in my tracks.

“When did you get like this?” he asked. "You've got to get a grip."

I thought a minute. He was right. It wasn’t always like this. After the birth of our daughter, I started to worry more about the planet. That concern has continued to escalate, to the point where I now practically slap plastic straws out of people’s hands.

When Elizabeth was a baby, we used to listen to Jack Johnson’s upbeat “Curious George” soundtrack. We’d all croon, “Three is the magic number, yes, it is ... Reduce, reuse recycle.” It all seemed so simple back then.

Somewhere along the line, things had taken a terrible turn. I felt a sense of urgency I’d never felt before. But when did I start ranting in the driveway in my pajamas? Asking servers if take-home boxes are paper or plastic before deciding whether I wanted a doggy bag?

And losing it when a balloon flew away at my daughter’s birthday party?

Granted, I won’t buy balloons, because, you know, the environment. So one year I gave in to my daughter and bought a few. While I knew I couldn’t single-handedly save the whales that day, I could make darn sure those balloons were tied down extra tight. Then it happened.

A rogue balloon slipped its knot and headed toward the street.

Mommy” my daughter cried. “Oh no!”

“Get it!” I yelled.

“Run, Daddy!” Elizabeth shouted, eyes wide.

My poor husband bolted down the driveway, barely checking for traffic before crossing the street.

“It’s going toward the ocean!” Elizabeth wailed, as it gained altitude and headed to sea.

“I said double knots!” I said, shaking my fist. Tim threw up his hands. It was futile. The balloon was a speck in the sky. We all watched it sadly until it disappeared.

“Poor sea turtles,” my little birthday girl said glumly.

What had I done?

“OK, party time!” I announced, trying to be cheerful.

But my daughter was devastated. My husband looked defeated. And guests were pulling into the driveway. I did need to get a grip.

Last month I visited my 89-year-old father in Rhode Island. While we were cleaning up after breakfast, I mistakenly put an empty plastic container into the wrong recycling bin.

“Oh, don’t put that in there, whatever you do,” my sister warned. “Inspector 12 will be on the case.”

She was referring to my father.

“That’s what I call him. He goes crazy if you don’t put the recycling in the right bin,” she whispered.

Well, so there you have it. I am my father's daughter. But you can just call me Inspector 13.

And the beat goes on.

Comments (1)
Posted by: Alison S McKellar | Apr 08, 2019 08:52

Oh this is just perfect! I laughed out loud so many times. I too am the crazy lady yelling at the wind in my pajamas in the driveway.



If you wish to comment, please login.