Best Laid Plans

Pittsburgh's curbside recycling program employs a "blue bag" system. Supermarkets bag your groceries with blue plastic bags, and you put your recyclables in these bags and leave them out at the curb every other trash day to be picked up by a separate recycling crew.

This January, the recycling program was greatly expanded in our part of the city. Instead of just accepting newspaper, cans, and plastics 1-5; we can recycle cardboard, office paper, catalogs, and paperboard. This is all "single stream" and doesn't have to be separated (which is convenient), and can just all be shoved together in the same blue bags.

The difficulty comes in that we already have a small problem with recyclables piling up in our home. Recycling collection is still every two weeks, so with this expansion of the program our storage requirements have also increased. Typically, by the end of a two week period our recycling bin was already overflowing w with bottles and cans.

We worried about this for a bit until we noticed that the brochure for the program [PDF] said, "Place in blue bags only (or Place in bright blue containers clearly marked 'Recycling')." We could get a blue recycling can, and store recyclables in the garage instead of the kitchen, then just wheel the bin outside on recycling day.

So of course the regular trash guys, who go through the neighborhood before the recycling crew, just dumped our big bin of recyclables into the garbage truck. Yay environmentalism! I called the recycling Division of the Bureau of Environmental Services to ask about this, and was told the blue container mention in the brochure was a red herring. All recyclables should be placed outside in blue bags, except for cardboard which can be simply flattened and tied with string (not simple, by the way). We could use a blue container to store full blue bags, and could possibly put a blue container full of blue bags out for the recycling crew to empty, but the person on the phone wouldn't recommend it.

So yay. Yay for people who don't mean what they write, and yay for people who don't tell anybody what they mean. Yay for people who don't know what they're supposed to do, and yay for people who don't do what they're supposed to. Yay for people who clearly mean well but have a hard time figuring out how to actually accomplish things. Yay.

2008.01.28 at 11:00am EST