Tah-dah! (Trumpet Flourish). Today Alan and I are happy to announce the 150th entry to the Sir Julius Vogel Award nominated Thursday Tangents. In hono[u]r of this occasion, we’re hoping you can solve a mystery for us.
Oh… Looking for the Wednesday Wanderings? Just page back one. I’ve an exciting announcement as to where you can sneak a look at the forthcoming Artemis Awakening. Then there’s a word that I have questions about…
JANE: Alan, in the “hols” column that started us off on this discussion of cupboards, cabinets, tips, dumps, and other rubbish, you mention that although you still use the term “tip,” the facility you were visiting had, until recently, been called a “landfill” and was now called a “Reclamation Center.”
ALAN: Everyone calls the facility a tip, but I think the city councils must have objected to the colloquialism because all the road signs pointing to the tip say “Landfill.” And once upon a time, that’s exactly what they were: just a great big hole you threw stuff into. Eventually, it filled up and got smoothed over and the landfill closed and re-opened somewhere else. But these days the tips are much more sophisticated operations than once they were, and now there is a genuine attempt to separate out the various items and reclaim or recycle whatever can be reclaimed and recycled. I find that very laudable.
JANE: I agree. One of the first Wednesday Wanderings I wrote was about a trip we took to the dump with a friend and my reaction to finding that it was now possible to drop electronics, for example, off where they would be recycled. This was in late January of 2010. I haven’t been back since, so I don’t know how the process changed. However, as in your part of the world, the name has been changed to reflect a new mission.
When I checked the phone book for listings, I started with the one for the Solid Waste Management department of city government. There I found a very amusing entry: “Residential Convenience Centers: See Landfills for List of Locations.” This seemed very silly to me. Why rename something by a term no one would think to look up? I prefer your term “Reclamation Center.”
ALAN: Ah, pomposity. Don’t you love it?
JANE: Anyhow, I went over to the “Landfills” entry and discovered that we have four places to dump or tip garbage or trash. Three are now termed Residential Convenience Centers but one persists in being a landfill, making me think it must be inconvenient.
I was a little surprised that you mentioned various things – jigsaw puzzles come to mind – that you tipped into the tip that seemed as if they might have some use left in them. If it were me, I would have taken those to a thrift shop. Do you have anything like that there?
ALAN: Yes indeed. Two large charities run them, the Salvation Army (“the Sallies”) and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul (“Vinnies”). The outlets that you call thrift shops we’d call op-shops. I assume that’s short for opportunity shops on the grounds that the bargains they contain represent a great opportunity! A friend of mine who loves clothes has a lot of stunning outfits that she’s rescued from op-shops.
JANE: I love the term op-shops! It sounds like a place where spies would shop. Q would have a room in the back where scratched and dented espionage tools could be bought for a bargain. Acid pens that fire jam or smoke tablets that transform your car’s exhaust into a bright pink cloud.
ALAN: Shades of Dashiell Hammett’s Continental Op – maybe that’s how he outfitted himself. Or maybe we’ve both got far too vivid imaginations!
JANE: Too vivid? Us? Never!
We have a much wider variety of thrift stores here. The name “Goodwill” is practically synonymous with “thrift shop,” but other charities operate them as well. It’s quite possible to recycle gently used items this way and hope you’re helping some organization raise money.
I was curious. How is your recycling collected? You mentioned a while back that containers are supposed to be rinsed out. That’s true here, too. However, do you sort items or do they go into one big bin?
ALAN: The cardboard, paper, tins and plastic all jumble together in a big bin with a yellow lid (the council seems to be inordinately fond of yellow). The glass has a separate bin all to itself which is, unfortunately, turquoise. Each bin is collected on alternate weekly cycles.
When it’s the turn of the glass, a massive truck rumbles slowly up the street hotly pursued by very athletic men who pick up the bin and throw the glass into the truck, generating very satisfying crashing, smashing noises.
When it’s the turn of the other stuff, a different truck with a mechanical arm picks up the bin and empties the contents into itself quite quietly. I have no idea how they separate the elements out at the other end, but they must have some sort of system. There’s a threatening label attached to the bin which lists things that are allowed in the bin and things that are not. Dire penalties await those who disobey the instructions.
JANE: Interesting. Our system is similar in that cardboard, paper, cans, and plastic are all put into one large, bright blue bin. I’ve also wondered how – or, sadly, even if – these items ever get sorted and used or if we’re just going through the motions.
Glass is not collected at all. I heard this is because a sanitation worker (formerly known as “garbage man” or “trash man”) was cut very badly on glass. Glass can be dropped off at various places, which is a good thing, because glass is one item that recycles very well. A friend of mine briefly worked for a company that took used glass and transformed it via heat into a perlite-like substance that had various uses, including (if I recall correctly) being used in potting soil in place of peat.
ALAN: “Sanitation Worker”? Don’t you mean “Environmental Reclamation Technician”? Or possibly “Specialist Disposal Engineer”?
JANE: I like that! Almost Orwellian… But, go on.
ALAN: Here, the rule is that broken glass won’t be collected. We are supposed to wrap that carefully and dispose of it with the normal stuff that goes in the yellow council rubbish bag. The truck that they throw the recyclable glass into is covered over so that there is no possibility of “splash-back” causing injuries when the glass is collected and tossed in. They are really as safety conscious as they can be.
JANE: Many years ago, when I still lived in Lynchburg, Virginia, the city had a voluntary recycling program that worked very well. Neatly labeled dumpsters were placed in the parking lots of various grocery stores. It only took a moment to go by and pop recyclable items into the appropriate place. Then the city collected the already sorted items and distributed them to businesses that would turn them into something useful.
As I said before, I do wonder if somewhere there are conveyer belts where someone sits sorting all the things we dump into our recycling bin. If not, it’s just a scam.
ALAN: I wonder if one of our readers knows where we could find the answer.