The Mast-Head: Sorting Out the Trash

One New Year’s resolution I hope to keep is to get to the dump more frequently. I, for whatever reason, just did not take adequate advantage of my $100 East Hampton Town garbage permit in 2011.
    Around lunchtime on Tuesday, I took a big haul of empty boxes and holiday wrapping paper to the Springs-Fireplace Road transfer station. Also tucked in the back of my pickup truck that morning were two garbage bags full of our children’s broken toys, games, and puzzles now missing many pieces, and stuffed animals missing their stuffing. Gone now is Bad Dream Bunny, a plush rabbit that lost both of its ears early on and was blamed by our middle child for a string of nightmares.
    Back when dump permits were $50, and came with a plastic recycling tub with a cute raccoon on the side, the annual trash ante-up seemed a good value. At twice the cost now, and with the two town transfer stations closed on Wednesdays, I may be overpaying. Considering how much junk has accumulated in the house over the years, however, I should go more often and make the fee worthwhile.
    Garbage has been on my mind more than usual since Christmas Eve, when I was sorting presents in my office to get them ready for wrapping. Unpacking a box from Amazon, I was annoyed by the plastic air packs used to cushion the gifts in too-large cardboard boxes. Slashing them with an X-acto knife to make them small enough to cram in a trash bin, I noticed one of those triangular marks supposed to indicate an item’s recyclability, if you will. I discovered the air packs were made of type-2 plastic — one of two I thought were accepted by East Hampton Town for recycling.
    The recycling centers, however, take only plastic bottles that contained liquids, a rule I found buried deep in a PDF file on the town’s Web site. Plastic mayonnaise or yogurt containers, for example, even if they are type 1 or 2, the allowed varieties, must be tossed in with the nonrecyclable trash, as must be Amazon air packs, and the like.
    The reason, I read on a City of New York recycling Web page so I assume it is true here, is that commercial buyers of plastics are interested only in jugs and bottles. Municipalities, including New York, are trying to get the federal government to change the way packaging is labeled to make it easier for consumers to figure out what to recycle.
    This left me once again placing the air packs in the trash with Bad Dream Bunny and the rest. The obvious answer is to buy less stuff. But that is a lot easier said than done.