Recycling: a great idea, and an inherent part of our culture the past couple of decades, right?
We have spent a decade here trying – and failing – to bring commercial recycling to Deception Pass. It’s too far from the urban centers, we were told, and the cost was prohibitive. Campers would not separate their recyclables, we were told, meaning the material would not be worth anyone’s time to sort through.
We almost had a grant in hand to allow us to move ahead anyway, but that fell through when funding dried up.
So this year we are trying to do things on our own. A small grant from our region office allowed us to buy recycle containers, which we scattered around the campgrounds and day use areas next to our dumpsters. We have a container for aluminum cans, with small holes so only aluminum cans end up in the bin. And we have a similar bin for plastic \bottles, again with a small hole just large enough for plastic bottles.
Park staff and volunteers then go around and empty the bins when they are full, and I haul the bags to the recycle station on my way home from work. It sounded like a straightforward plan.
What could go wrong?
A week after going live, I opened up the first bag of aluminum cans. Inside I found half a dozen beer bottles, two sandwiches, a handful of yogurt cups, six plastic bottles, used napkins, and four well-used diapers, adding interesting liquids and odors to the assortment of aluminum cans.
The next bag, supposedly filled with plastic bottles, had more diapers, a child’s sand bucket, six chicken bones, two burritos, and three wine bottles, along with red solo drink cups and plastic bottles.
And one brick.
In defense of most of our visitors, most come from places where a variety of recyclables are mixed together and then sorted by the waste collection company at their facility. That would explain the glass bottles. But diapers, chicken bones, and a brick?
And a further explanation or excuse for our visitors: our dumpsters can fill up with the solid waste of 2000 campers a night; maybe the recycle bin was the only place left to tuck that last diaper.
We want recycling to work. But we don’t have time to hand sort dozens of recycle bags every few days. And we certainly can’t recycle the materials we found in the bags as-is.
We have to re-evaluate how we offer recycling services.