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Separate, Recycle Trash a Good Resolution : Smart shopping helps to reduce throw-away packaging and will begin 1994 on an environmentally friendly note.

January 06, 1994|RICHARD KAHLENBERG | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Let me share with you a recent cartoon printed in Garbage Reincarnation magazine. It shows Satan standing at the gates of hell, looking puzzled as a particularly anxious group of new recruits shuffles in. His demon assistant is whispering in his ear, "A new category . . . NOT separating their trash."

My message to those condemned, albeit too late, is "You shoulda been smarter shoppers so your trash would be real easy to separate."

We're still in the shadow of New Year's resolution-making. It's not too late. It takes a resolution of the New Year's kind to separate properly.

The other day I got a letter from an Oxnard resident, Louise Gerber, asking how I manage to recycle everything, as the blurb on this column asserts. Well, I don't really. What I do is avoid things, not bringing them home in the first place, lest they might end up in the trash.

Ms. Gerber, a serious recycler, asked about cereal boxes, which are specifically not supposed to be put in our recycling bins in this county. All I can say is to buy in bulk at a health food store, scooping the stuff into the plastic bag they provide and then take those bags to Von's or Ralph's recycling bin when you're through with them. Not very exciting, but little things eventually add up--if you're really going to get into separating your trash and recycling matter.

Ms. Gerber, whom I called to thank for her letter and ask for some suggestions of her own, said of her shopping routine: "I'm much more ready to buy if there's a 1 or a 2 imprinted on the container . . . so I can recycle." Why? Because in Ventura County, only those two types of plastic are supposed to go into the curbside recycling bin. The other-numbered empty containers are landfilled. Thus, Ms. Gerber has turned herself into a not-very-frequent customer of products packed in plastics with big numbers on them.

I checked further with David Goldstein, a recycling expert with Ventura County. He said the garbage pick-up policy in parts of the east county allows plastic with the number 6 on it to be put in recycling bins. He advises calling your local city hall for specifics. So, if you're in Simi Valley, for instance, you can put Styrofoam cups--rinsed out, please--in the recycling bin.

To put Ms. Gerber's and Mr. Goldstein's thoughts into the form of a resolution, I suggest that we conjure up in our minds one of those Ventura County freeway signs announcing "Route 126." Get it?

Ms. Gerber had another resolution to suggest. Write in and get yourself purged from the mailing lists of the junk mail companies who have been making money buying and selling your name and address. I looked into that, too, and came up with a place to write and make that demand.

And Mr. Goldstein had a resolution to suggest, too. It seems that people in Southern California, including those in Ventura County, have decided not to put tin cans in the recycling bin when separating garbage. Well, we should be recycling these cans, which are actually steel with a thin tin coating.

They are much in demand by industry as raw material for melting down and re-fabrication. Sort of like World War II, but this time around it's because recycling employs far less expensive energy than grinding and smelting raw iron ore.

This week the county began a publicity campaign, paid for by the Steel Recycling Institute, to get us to separate out all our cans, steel and aluminum from the garbage. I am, however, at a loss for a way to make this into a resolution that's easy to remember--like the Route 126 concept. Maybe something about steel protecting us from eternal fires.

Nah. A belated happy new year, anyway.

Details

* FYI: For the latest details on what's OK to put into your recycling bin for 1994, call your local city hall or 648-9242, the Ventura County's Sold Waste Management District. To prevent junk mail from coming to your house and ending up in our local landfill, write and ask to have your name dropped from the major mass mailing lists. Attention: the Mail Preference Service, Direct Marketing Assn., P.O. Box 9008, Farmingdale, N.Y. 11735-9008. It works, though you may have to write more than once. And for a copy of the Shopper's Possessive Guide to Leaving Less Behind for the Future, call the California Integrated Waste Management Board at 1-800-CA-WASTE.

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