I am Red Thursday: Getting deep into recycling

Mariane Matera cannot stop flattening, sorting, sending things away. She is a recycling machine. She is Red Thursday.

Photo by: cogdogblog

I am Red Thursday.

That’s my recycling day. Central Virginia Waste Management alternates its pickup schedule between red and blue weeks. I have always been serious about recycling, even though sorting my garbage appealed more to my need to organize than my need to save the planet. I was one of the first to buy the huge $65 recycling cart in Henrico, the one Richmond city residents now have for free.

I’m also the neighborhood crazy cat lady. I feed a lot of cats so there’s lots of cans. My husband is a big user of bottled water, and after weekly band practices, there’s many other bottles left behind as well.

I’m a big Amazon shopper, and anyone who shops at Amazon knows the company really likes to pack things. Once I ordered a pillow, and it was inside a box, which Amazon packed inside a bigger box and lined with air pillows. Yesterday I got a stadium blanket that was packed inside a big box, lined with miles of crinkled brown paper packaging filler. My blanket and pillow didn’t break because of that fine packing.

So there are many cardboard boxes to break down on Red Thursday Eve. My husband and I alternately look forward to it and dread it. We look forward to it because for a few precious days after Red Thursday, our seldom-used dining room is not totally piled up with cardboard boxes. We dread it because of the flattening process. Armed with box cutters, we slice and flatten with abandon, sometimes suffering injuries in the process. I have shed blood in order to recycle. We also dread it because, up until Red Thursday Eve, all the air pillows are hidden away in the boxes. After the boxes are flat, I still have to deal with those pillows.

I have so many sleeves of air pillows, my dining room is full of laundry baskets piled high with air pillow sleeves. I pass many an evening watching TV while stabbing air pillows with scissors. Then I have to stuff all the deflated plastic into reusable shopping bags and put them in my car to stuff into those plastic recycling boxes at the grocery store, the ones that, if you are not very careful, will also strip the rings off your fingers.

What else can you do with air pillows? I often forget to take the plastic into the grocery store, so eventually my car is so full of bags of plastic, it looks like an Amazon box.

Being a recycler is hard work, but I have never been one to waste. I print on both sides of a piece of paper before I shred it put it in the recycling box. Using just one side of a sheet of paper seems unholy to me. I don’t throw out a notebook until I have written on every page, front and back. I wash and reuse soda straws. I carefully cut apart all the o-rings in the plastic that holds six-packs together because I have a horror of a wild animal getting stuck in one and appearing on Facebook in a woeful state. I mail back empty printer ink cartridges. I take everything with an electrical cord to recycling events, all manner of lamps, hand vacs, broken toasters. I have never left a TV on the curb.

In fact, I get a lot of my furniture from the curb. I found my favorite chair and footstool out in the street with a “FREE” sign on it. The Hanover County dump used to have a swap shed and I still have lamps I found there. Diversity Thrift is my go-to place for furniture. I look for the insane pricing, like my giant, overstuffed chair for $25, priced so low because it didn’t have any companion matching pieces. Nothing in my house matches. Nothing.

Recently I found out about a place called Gimme Five that accepts No. 5 plastic, a local landfill no-no. I was energized! I started running my No. 5 plastic through the dishwasher and boxing it up for the post office. But since it’s going to Cortland, New York, even though the box was light, it was a big box, and it cost big to mail it. I can’t afford this every week. But now I am hooked on recycling No. 5 plastic. I cannot stop. It is too late to save me.

I am Red Thursday.

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Mariane Matera

Mariane Matera also composts, which she considers dumping old food into the garden, but she suspects it might be more involved a process than that.

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