The boys and I ran some errands today, including taking in the recycling. In addition to the usual load of aluminum cans we brought in some tin and plastic. When we first entered the drop off door there wasn’t a soul to be found and then, out of nowhere, a grumpy, recycling curmudgeon made his presence known.

He seemed friendly enough, but in my efforts to make small talk about recycling he launched into a tirade about how terrible plastics are. Clearly the man had his breaking point and I unknowingly pushed him over the edge with my surprisingly inadequate understanding of why plastics are such a pain.

‘You see all that aluminum?’ he asked me gesturing to the ceiling-high wall of crushed can cubes behind him. ‘Yeah’, I returned sheepishly. ‘Well, plastics are terrible for space consideration. With such a thin membrane they are made up almost entirely of air and you have to compact the hell out of it to make it smaller.’ I nodded as if knowing what the big deal was.

‘I emptied this plastic bin three times today and look at it now!’ He pointed at an overflowing heap of plastic containers and bags containing even more. ‘You can just put your bag down right there with the others and I’ll empty the bin again later!’ With a quick eye roll he turned his attention back to the can crusher and tore ferociously into my bag loads of aluminum.

We suffered through a few minutes of loud crushing and then awkward silence as we approached the window to claim our bounty for the cans. With clearly one of the worst jobs any person could have, our host did manage to squeeze out ‘have a nice day.’ It should be better than yours, I thought to myself.

What say you?