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can I recycle this?

I just got home from work where I spend my time passionately straightening clothing on hangers, telling women that that skirt does *not* make them look fat and drinking copious amounts of bottled water.

It’s my bottle, I refill it from the faucet in the bathroom and feel deliciously good about my recycling habit. I’ve had the same water bottle now for two weeks.


My husband teases me about my love of recycling, insisting that half the things I carefully wash and sort end up in the landfill anyway because they can’t, in reality, be recycled.

“Who recycles receipts?”

His father snorted along with him as they jointly taunted my obsession with saving the world, one tin can at a time.

“I don’t think you can recycle those….”

Yes, you can. They’re shiny paper, which goes in the same big metal container as the old magazines and boxboard.

“Boxboard? What is that even… I don’t think that’s a real thing, love.”

Yes, it is. But only those people utterly devoted to the cause of recycling would know that, thank you very much! Boxboard, shiny paper, junk mail, magazines – they all go together at The Center.

“I think they laugh when they see all your tiny scraps of receipts and things that can’t be recycled… ‘who is this person every week who junks up the works with all this trash – they’re nuts!’…

They don’t laugh. They look at me with serious, appreciative eyes that understand what I am trying to do, how I am being a conscious consumer…

“You know what babe, we’ve gone through a lot less paper towel since you yelled at me about using it for everything…”

My beloved new husband, who, to my abject horror, used paper towel to dry the dishes. Lots of paper towel. My childhood was spent longing for the luxury of paper towels, when we really could barely afford toilet paper. It hurt me in a deep place to see them used carelessly and then thrown away like – – – trash. Before I could pause and regain my ‘good wife’ face, I cried out in shock and pain, “What are you DOING?!?”  He was drying the dishes… he looked scared and guilty, but didn’t have a clue why.

“You know dad,” he said, “we’ve become so good with paper towels, like, we maybe go through one roll a month. One….”

“Your brother researched it and found that it takes more energy to wash and dry cloth towels than it does to make paper ones. You’re not saving anything. Ann, you need to let your past go… you have paper towels now. Use them.”

My father-in-law,  the voice of uncomfortable reason.

“Can I at least recycle them after they’re used?”  Me – grasping at straws. My entire past, my world, my plan to save the earth for my children – all slipping away from me…

His look said it all, and we changed the subject.


4 thoughts on “can I recycle this?

  1. DRYING DISHES WITH PAPER TOWELS???????? I don’t blame your reaction, my dear. And as far as saving energy goes, have a towel or two designated for dish drying, and when you’re finished with it, air-dry it. If you ONLY dry clean dishes with it, how often are you going to need to wash it? Hmmmm? I am a big recycling fan myself, though I end up battling my mom who wants to burn everything – even when it’s 95F outside – in the wood cook stove in the middle of the house. Junk mail? I try to sneak it into the recycle bin. Ten minutes later I re-enter the kitchen to see mom picking it back out and stuffing it in the wood stove. As I mix up another iced coffee.

    • Good for you, fellow garbage washer! 🙂 It’s weird, but we’re saving something, I’m sure – and it’s going to be worth it!

"The only time to eat diet food is while you're waiting for the steak to cook." Julia Child

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