File That In The Correct Out Basket

SATURDAY'S HERO

March 14, 1992|By ROB KASPER

After failing to find the ketchup bottle, I vowed to reorganize the household filing system. I am in charge of the out baskets, also known as the waste baskets. Formerly known as the trash.

Back when trash was just trash, I tossed old stuff in a waste basket. Then, a couple of times a week, I toted the refuse to the alley where it was scooped up and squashed by an amazingly efficient, if somewhat loud, city trash truck.

Now that recycling has hit the household, members of my family do not toss things in the trash. Instead, we place material in its proper recycling bin. Old newspapers go in one receptacle. Glass, cans and plastic containers go in another. And anything left over, plain ole trash, goes in the third.

Pickup days are also complicated. Plain ole trash still gets scooped up twice a week. But the bundles of paper are supposed to be set out for pickup on alternating Thursdays. Whenever paper gets the week off, it's a "plastic Thursday." This is the day that plastic, glass and metal materials meet their "reincarnator."

Even though it is complicated, I am all in favor of this new world order of refuse. I recycle for the usual reasons. Because it is "the right thing to do." Because it makes me feel morally superior to plain ole trash folks. Because it might keep city taxes from rising. And because my kids nag me about it.

The kids of today are recycling ninnies. You can't toss a beer can these days without risking a lecture on the importance of saving the planet. I blame this propagandizing on the schools, where teachers put ideas in the kids' heads. And on Saturday morning television, where public service announcements repeatedly tell our youth "Don't Do Drugs," but "Do Squash Cans."

While my kids are good at nagging and squashing, I am the one in charge of the grunt work of recycling -- namely the sorting and hauling.

Which gets me back to the missing ketchup bottle. I was looking for it because the family was in the midst of ketchup crisis. The kids had hamburgers in front of them but no ketchup.

The fact that we are a ketchup-dependent family marks us as as being out of it. Recent research alleges that salsa has replaced ketchup as America's top condiment. I do not believe this report. Our family, like many with school-age kids, goes through enough ketchup in one week to knock the stuffing out of any hoity-toity salsa statistics. At any given meal, we have a giant plastic bottle of ketchup open and squirting. Which was one reason why the other night at dinner when we couldn't find the ketchup bottle, I began to paw through the trash.

I figured that the ketchup bottle had been "misfiled." I thought that some impatient ketchup consumer had been disappointed with the flow of the red stuff and tossed a partially full bottle in the trash.

Before recycling, fetching items from "the files" was simpler. Back then there was only one wastebasket to ransack. Now there were three receptacles, one for paper, one for plastic, glass and metal, and one for trash.

That is the theory anyway. But in practice instead of being rinsed out and placed in its proper receptacle, an item sometimes gets tossed in a basket, any basket.

I began working the files. I found the milk cartons that had been cleaned and squashed, beer bottles without odor, and tuna fish cans that sparkled, but no ketchup bottle.

Next I looked through the mixed paper file; there were old newspapers, pieces of cardboard and empty food boxes. While I was pawing away, I checked a pizza box to make sure it wasn't covered with wax. Paper covered with wax is forbidden. I don't know why. I just know the rules.

Finally I looked through the "real trash." This was the wastebasket that held stuff like old bird seed. Items beyond recycling. I saw things that a gentleman never mentions. But I did not see any salsa bottles, or the missing ketchup bottle.

This gave me hope. Since the ketchup was not in the trash, it could still be at large. I began an extensive household search, checking all the known hangouts of the ketchup-loving crowd, in front of the television, under beds, next to my workbench. Nothing. I never found it.

The hunt for the ketchup bottle taught me several valuable lessons. First, we need bigger wastebaskets, three of them, each one a different color. Someone suggested a brown waste basket for real trash, an off-white one for glass, plastic and metals, and fuchsia one for mixed paper.

Which leads me to my next project. I know what mixed paper is -- any paper not covered with wax. But I haven't got a clue what color fuchsia is.

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