By the time I've downed my second cup of coffee on Saturdays, I have to make the big decision of the day. Is this the day I am going to attempt to unload the newspapers and bottles at a recycling center?
There are two parts to recycling. The first part consists of getting all the recyclable materials together in your home. The second part consists of getting them out of your house and into a recycling center.
I've mastered the first part. My family can pile up trash, also called recyclable materials, faster than you can say "ashes to ashes, soda cans to flattened metal, and wine bottles to ground glass."
But getting the stuff to a recycling center and getting the recycling center to take it have proven to be a challenge.
If I decide to make a run at recycling, I check my "score card." This is the list of recycling centers operated in Baltimore and the surrounding counties that is printed in Saturday's newspaper. The score card lists the locations of the centers, the materials they accept and their hours of operation. I cut it out of the paper and carry it with me as I journey toward recycling centers.
I've learned that the information on addresses and recyclable materials is trustworthy. But the hours of operation require translation.
When, for example, the hours of the former recycling center in a Western High School parking lot were listed as 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday, I discovered that you had better get there closer to 9 a.m. than to noon. This center is no longer in operation, because the people in that immediate neighborhood now no longer have to haul recyclable materials to a center. They can now just put them out on in special trash cans and they will be picked up by city crews.
But back in the summer, when the Western High school center was open, I learned that if I arrived there at 11:30 a.m., I would probably be turned away. The truck that carried newspapers would be filled and so would the bins that held glass bottles and cans.
When that happened, I would check my score card, and, with a trunk full of aromatic bottles and heavy newspapers, speed down toward another recycling center on Calvert Street between Lanvale and Lafayette. Its Saturday hours were listed as noon to 3 p.m., but often it filled up and closed around 2 p.m.
Moreover, it took only bottles and cans, not newspapers.
To get rid of, I mean recycle, the newspaper I had to drive to yet anothercenter, this one at 10 S. Wolfe St., south of Johns Hopkins hospital.
Its Saturday hours were listed as 10 a.m. to 2 p.m, with an asterisk. The asterisk told me that these hours apply only to the second and fourth Saturdays of the month. Luckily it was the second Saturday of the month, the center was open, and it took me and my newspapers.
I have since taken a liking to the Wolfe Street center. It has what I am looking for in a recycling station: It takes newspapers, it accepts glass and cans. My score card says the center also accepts plastic screw-top bottles, but only on the second and fourth Saturdays.
To get into it you have to drive down a narrow alley. But I like that in a recycling center; it gives it an air of exclusivity. It also is open weekdays 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. And one day last week, en route to work in my full coat and tie, I loaded up our bags of leaking wine bottles and 14 grocery sacks of newspapers and deposited them at the center.
When I got rid of that stuff, I felt cleansed. The car smelled better too.
Back at work, I told some of my colleagues who live in the suburbs about my tales of attempted recycling, they laughed and told me similar stories. One fellow who lives in Columbia said to get rid of his newspapers he dispatched a baby-sitter and one of his kids to the Columbia Mall on a Monday afternoon. But by the time the kid got out of school and they got to the mall the truck had filled with newspapers.
I recognize that recycling is in a fledgling state. And I know that these days most local governments are hard pressed to come up with enough money just to pick up the plain old trash, let alone add more crews and containers for recycling. But I think that someday, when it gets too expensive to put our trash in landfills, we will all recycle whether we want to or not.
In the meantime, about every other Saturday, I'll load up the car and go searching for a recycling center that will accept me.