What our recycling habits say about us

Posted: Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Question of the day: How do you recycle pornography without looking like a creeptacular pervball?

Let me explain. First, I'm talking about old school pornography - magazines and such - that you can't simply delete from your browser's history. In that regard, I suspect many Americans switched from analog to digital a long time ago. I know I did.

So, the pornography isn't mine. I know, that's what they all say. But in this case, it's true. Our house's previous owner - an aging bachelor who lived alone with his guns, his guitar and his posters of processed ladies sprawling across the hoods of American-made sports cars - still receives mail-order adult catalogues at our address.

Every day, the mailman brings more, from outlets such as "Spice Video," "Lion's Den" and one whose name I can't remember that specializes in niche categories straddling the line between disturbing and hilarious. You know, stuff involving costumes, implements, and/or hermaphrodites.

Side note: we also get his novelty weapons catalogue, which features - among swords and tazers and brass knuckles - replica Nazi paraphernalia. There is nothing hilarious about Nazi paraphernalia. It's straight-up disturbing.

Between these and our legitimate catalogues - REI, Cabela's, Crate & Barrel (all pornographic in their own way) - our wastepaper bin fills fast.

Last week, I arrived at the recycling center moments after they bulldozed the pile, thus leaving me no choice but to drop my lascivious load onto virgin pavement. No junk mail to disguise it, no one upon whom to deflect blame. You should've seen the look on the woman's face next to me. I thought she was going to soil her mom jeans.

Not that I blame her. I'd be freaked out, too, if I encountered myself discarding a mound of skin mags. That's the thing about pornography. Even at a distance, even if body parts are starred and pixilated, you know it when you see it. In that regard, the U.S. Supreme Court was right.

Anyway, this little mix-up got me thinking: you can tell a lot about people by their recycling.

For instance, do they attend to it immediately, or save up to the point of van rental? What's the organizational system? What brand of laundry detergent do they use? Crest or Colgate? Rainier or High-Life? Bar soap or bath gel? Are they the type to wash out the empty ketchup bottle? What about tougher-to-clean containers, like peanut butter, where it's not enough to rinse, where you actually have to get in there with a brillo pad?

Also, think of the many personal care products that come inside No. 1 and No. 2 plastic containers and/or cardboard cartons.

Here is what my recycling says about me:

I am a recovering Diet Pepsi addict. Though I continue to dabble in a veritable pharmacopia of sugar-free soft drinks - for instance, the other night I found myself wondering what it would be like to snort a line of Crystal Light - I used to down Diet Pepsi by the Costco cube. Even though I swore off the stuff for good, there's no hiding the evidence of a relapse.

Also, I stockpile magazines for a "later" that never comes. It's all I can do to keep up with the catalogues - you can't expect me to finish a whole New Yorker every week. Even after I've promised to get rid of the teetering pile, I usually rescue about a third of it, which I then relocate to the downstairs guest bathroom, where no one will ever find out. D'oh.

Of course, that's to say nothing of all the other recyclables I've stashed around the house. We're talking milk crates worth of spent camping fuels, Ziploc baggies stuffed with batteries. Let's not even talk about used printer cartridges and scratched CDs. Or hunks of Styrofoam packing material that I'm saving for "art projects."

Now that I think about it, there's a fine line between recycling and hoarding. By the way, have you ever seen that show, "Hoarders," on A&E? My favorite episode: the hoarder who hoards DVDs of "Hoarders." Boyfriend is messed up.

Interesting, too, how quickly recycling becomes baby/toddler toys. In the wake of the BPA scare, we removed every single plastic cup, plate and storage container from the cupboards, but we'll let our little daughter drink bathwater from discarded pill bottles. Her favorite plaything is a broken cordless phone.

Whatever our recycling says about us as individuals, as a city, it says we aren't recycling enough - less than 10 percent of Juneau's garbage, currently. Surely a town that goes so nuts for a live taping of "This American Life" with Ira Glass can recycle more than that.

We need to step it up, Juneau. From now on, let's recycle all our pornography, no matter how sick and twisted. Together, we can make a difference.

• Geoff Kirsch lives in Juneau.

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