Patty Page holds the rewards of her avid recycling efforts in one hand.
A popcorn tub.
It’s filled with trash, the grand total generated by Page and her husband, Dave, over two weeks.
They put out only four garbage cans for collection last year. They hope to get down to three.
“What’s with these people?” the couple’s new neighbors admitted to wondering. “They never put out their trash.”
That’s because the Pages work very hard at lightening their load on the earth.
“We’re environmental groupies,” quipped Patty Page, 67, an advocate for recycling since the 1970s.
She’s joined by a growing number of people concerned about the environment who are determined to take their recycling efforts beyond the curbside cart.
“People are really interested in what to do with all the weird little things,” said Sally Fisher, a Clark County waste reduction specialist.
The county’s online Recycling A-Z index is a good place to start. It covers everything from aerosol cans (empty ones can go in the curbside bins) to zinc batteries (those have to go to the transfer stations).
Fisher said she often gets calls about plastic bags. They cannot go in the big blue recycling carts, and if they do, they badly gum up the sorting equipment. Light bulbs are another source of consternation. They’re trash, Fisher said, unless they are compact fluorescent bulbs, which must go to a household hazardous waste disposal site or event to be recycled.
“When you’re trying to clean out, you can only make so many runs to so many places. I don’t want people to feel guilty. That’s not how we want it to be,” Fisher said. “We want people to do the best they can and get things to the right place and feel good about what they can do.”
Sometimes that means throwing an item away, rather than burning gas and time, Fisher said.
“Even though you could recycle some tiny component of it, you have to decide what’s worth it and what’s not,” Fisher said. “Some people are diehard and it’s worth it to them.”
Particular about plastic
Page is one of them.
She spends most of her efforts on plastic. She tries not to buy it in the first place, even choosing milk in glass bottles over plastic jugs. Inevitably, though, plastic makes its way into her house.
On th Web
For information on how to recycle what can’t go in your curbside cart, check out Clark County’s list Recycling A-Z.
She breaks apart the disposable inhaler her mother’s asthma medicine comes in, and recycles the plastic. She does the same for water filters. What she can’t put in her big blue recycling bin, she saves up. When she has errands to run in Portland, she puts out a call to friends for their plastic odds and ends, consolidates it all and hauls it to Far West Fibers, which recycles not only odd-shaped rigid plastic but also old tennis shoes and CD cases.
Other items occasionally stump Page.
“I always have a basket of stuff that I’m not sure if they’ll take it or not,” Page said.
On a recent morning, she and her friend Susie Foster were sorting through items in her house. A pile of old jeans was stacked near the front door. Ones that are in good condition can go to Goodwill Industries or thrift stores, but what to do when they’re badly worn?
“I heard they make insulation out of them, but I can’t find a middle man,” Page said.
Sometimes she just has to let go, something she finds difficult to do. So her friends step in.
“It’s easier to get rid of someone else’s stuff,” Foster said.
As hard as Page tries to recycle everything, she said she’s not perfect, nor does she expect anyone else to be as fervent as she is.
“I do all this stuff, but I do not do it 100 percent,” she said. “Everyone’s on a journey.”