Daily Archives: July 10, 2008

Green and Blue Confusion

Thomas Friedman, New York Times foreign affairs columnist, has a new book to be released September 8, 2008. His previous book, The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century, was a number one best seller. Carnegie Library is preparing for Hot, Flat, and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution – And How it Can Renew America to follow in the best seller camp. I just reserved a copy, and though it’s not yet in our catalog, call or come in and we’ll reserve a copy for you.

My own green revolution hit a wall when I moved to Pittsburgh three years ago. I couldn’t believe that the city collected household recyclables in blue plastic grocery bags. Plastic bags required? Really? I’d  made a habit of carrying food home from the store in my own canvas or string bags. Bagging added unnecessary effort and waste to the process, and opposed the point of recycling. I like to shop at small neighborhood stores, and the mandatory plastic bags policy seemed like a blatant conspiracy to get me to shop at a giant store I’d rather avoid. I resolved to collect only the number of blue bags I’d need for the current recycling batch and use my own toters for the remainder of my shopping. 

In many countries, disposable plastic bags have been taxed or banned. This year Whole Foods stopped supplying plastic grocery bags altogether. My need to shop at stores where blue bags are available is also diminishing.  This summer I signed up for weekly produce shares with a CSA. I walk a few blocks from home and transfer the contents of a cardboard box into two reusable bags. No plastic required.

But what to do about recycling day?

The city’s recycling website confuses. In at least six places you’ll read that recyclables are to be placed in blue bags. However, by determined close reading, I found a solution. I almost didn’t believe my eyes when I read this buried on the residential recycling page: Place [recycling] in blue bags only (or bright blue containers clearly marked “Recycling”). It’s true. Recycled materials can be put on the curb in plastic blue bins, containers that will last for years. I recently bought two manufactured by Rubbermaid. I use one for plastic, glass, and tin. In the other goes mixed paper.

Another possible point of confusion is that Pittsburgh is phasing in “single stream recycling.” This means that all recycling items can be bundled together in the same blue bag (or bin!) for curb side collection. Single stream recycling is currently picked up in Pittsburgh’s Central and Eastern divisions only.

When walking around my neighborhood the evening before recycling pickup, I’m not surprised to see blue bags and no bins. Help end the green and blue confusion — spread the word, and set an example on your block.


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