Redacting the trash

redacting the trash

My office recently began recycling its trash in earnest.

And guess who gets to lead the recycling effort? Yes, you guessed it: little old me, natural offspring of the Lorax and Woodsy Owl.

I am a natural Green Warrior. I have no car, and I walk a lot, and I take public transportation. I turn off lights and appliances when they’re not in use. I buy compact fluorescent bulbs (even though I’ve noticed they don’t last as long as everyone said they would; they seem to burn out almost as quickly as regular incandescent bulbs). I take sackloads of household goods and clothing to the Salvation Army. I was born in Ecotopia, after all, and I’m still an Ecotopian citizen in my heart.

But not everyone feels the same way about recycling.

I tried to make the office recycling method as easy as I could. We have blue garbage cans (for recyclables) and gray garbage cans (for non-recyclables). We have color-coordinated bin liners! We have posters, and lists, and information!

And still, every day, I find the wrong garbage in the wrong garbage can.

It’s usually first thing in the morning, when I arrive at the office. I think the University police use our cafeteria at night when they’re patrolling, and they throw their greasy pizza boxes and burrito wrappers and orange peels in the blue garbage bin, where it doesn’t belong.

I sigh. I like the fact that the cops come in at night; the building is much more secure as a result. I can deal with a little non-Green behavior.

And I roll up my sleeves, and dig the greasy wrappers out of the blue bin, and deposit them in the gray bins. And the orange peels, and slimy plastic containers, and everything else.

One of our computer programmers was watching me do it the other day. “What in the hell are you doing?” he asked.

“Redaction,” I said. “I’m redacting the garbage.”

He shook his head and grinned.

I don’t mind. I have no pride, and I have no shame. If someone sees me digging in the garbage with both hands, I can brush it off with a smile.

I’m working for the good of the planet.

(And you know what? My great-aunt Estelle was a cleaning lady for years. It’s not a bad job. It’s simple and repetitive and calming. If I ever lost everything and had to start over again, I think I could be a custodial worker.)

(It’s an honest living.)

About Loren Williams
Gay, partnered, living in Providence, working at a local university. Loves: books, movies, TV. Comments and recriminations can be sent to

2 Responses to Redacting the trash

  1. starproms says:

    Lovely post Loren and so true. We do a lot of recycling here in England. We have run out of space for dumping so we have to recycle. There are recycling places everywhere and we are expected to use them. I have three bins outside the house, a black one for usual rubbish, a green one for recyclable rubbish and a brown one for garden rubbish. The recyclable bin is never big enough!!! So much packaging these days.

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