CHARLEYWORLD: Recycling Is A Great Concept (Unless You Have A Truckload of Junk You Want To Get Rid Of)

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BY CHARLES MEMMINGER –  If recycling is such a swell idea, why is it so hard to give stuff away? Residents of a big condo compound in Kaneohe regularly leave their bulk items on the lawn where their main driveway hits Lilipuna Road to be picked up by the opala truck once a month. I got in the habit of dropping off some of my big stuff there figuring it would be one less stop for da boys. I drove by the pile of stuff – couches, TVs, tables, car parts – every day and began to notice that the spot served as a makeshift recycling area. I dropped off a half of a bicycle and noticed some pretty nice looking ceramic mugs in a box. When I drove by later that day, both my broken bike and the mugs were gone. I dropped off a broken picnic table umbrella and later noticed that someone had taken the canvas and left the skeleton. I thought that was pretty cool. It’s nice to know that one person’s crap is another person’s raw resource.

So after a day of heavy house cleaning, my wife and I headed out with the pickup truck filled with a mini-trampoline that no one ever bounced on, a small metal cabinet, a large desk with stainless steel legs, a urine-stained area rug (dog urine, just for the record), a large triangular  corner cabinet painted redish, a plastic garbage bag full of perfectly good DVD movies that my daughter didn’t want and some general rubbish. The plan was to leave the good stuff at the Lilipuna Recycling And Bulky Items Pick Up Zone, donate the DVDs to “Friends of the Library” at the Kaneohe Library and take the rest to the rubbish transfer station in Kailua. But when we drove up to where I had dumped the umbrella and bike, there was nothing there but a big scary sign that said “No Dumping. Violators Will Be Prosecuted.” Now, why would someone post such a sign at such a great place to exchange unwanted debris and dross with others?


I considered just taking the whole load up to the rubbish transfer station but they are so anti-recycling up there. There are signs all over the place that say “No Scavenging.” And by that, they mean no scavenging by civilians. The dump workers seem to have scavenged some pretty good stuff … couches, lamps tables that sit in corners of the open arena-sized building.  If we are supposed to recycle, the city ought to be encouraging scavenging. Scavenging IS recycling, right? There should be a place at the dump set aside just for people to paw through and after a month, get rid of what’s left and start over again.

But before I gave up and took everything to the dump, I remembered a little clothes recycling trailer in the Windward Mall parking lot. I knew if I left the good stuff there, it would all be gone by the end of the day. And if it wasn’t, I’d pick it up again. But this apparently had been tried before because on the side of the trailer was a big sign that said, “Do Not Leave Bulky Items Such As Mattresses and Furniture By Trailer.” This seemed to be kind of a snooty attitude for an organization devoted to recycling. They apparently are into only a specific type of recycling. Old clothes. I wondered if it was all old clothes are did it get even more specific than that? Maybe they only accepted tweed coats and knitted sweaters.

We hit the road again. This time headed for the bottle recycling station across from Windward Mall.  It’s tucked in a corner of a huge, empty parking lot. What better place to display some perfectly good furniture and exercise equipment. There was only one car unloading beer bottles so I walked over and asked one of the boys if I could leave our stuff under a tree for anyone to take. Three of the boys walked over to my truck and eyeballed the haul. The head guy said, “No, sorry. You can’t leave that here. Our boss would kill us.” I thought, man this recycling game is brutal. The clothes and condo recyclers will have you arrested and prosecuted and the bottle recycler employee’s boss will KILL them if they allow non-bottle related recyclables to be left near their operation.

But then the head guy said, “But, hey, I’ll take that desk.” And he took it. Then another guy said he’d take the trampoline. And the third guy took a metal cabinet. So that was good.

The rest was bound for the dump but first I stopped by the house to drop off my wife. Then, a miracle happened. A huge dark man in a huge beat up pickup truck came up my driveway. He was looking for my neighbor to see if he could con him into having a rock wall built. I told him my neighbor wasn’t home and didn’t want a rock wall. Then I had an idea. I asked him if he wanted anything in my truck. His eyes brightened like it was Christmas. He transferred the rest of the furniture and the sack of DVDs to his truck and even wanted the rug. I said, no, man, you don’t want THAT rug. I had to practically pull it out of his hands. “Trust me, I said, that rug is nasty.” He drove off a happy man without a new rock wall project but a lot of DVDs for his daughter.

In the end, we had managed against all odds to recycle all of the good stuff and take the rest to the dump. We had not been deterred by hostile signs and narrow minded professional recyclers. But it wasn’t easy. Easy would have been to take it under dark of night to the deserted dump road and just leave it in the bushes. Unfortunately, that’s what a lot of people do. Probably because the state and city makes it too damn hard to recycle.

I drove by the condo driveway the other day and noticed that under the “No Dumping” sign was a bed mattress, a chair and some other bulky items, the start of a nice little mountain of potentially recyclable stuff. I was a happy man.