By the way, I’m totally into saving the planet now.

It was an RC Cola commercial in the mid-80s. A boy walks with his Radio Flyer wagon around the city, picking up aluminum cans. He eventually makes it to a redemption center that looks something like a bank and cashes in his cans for a few quarters. He takes those quarters over to the nearest redemption center and purchases… wait for it… a can of RC Cola.

That commercial sparked my first run of recycling. This was long before the days of the HI 5 tax on cans and bottles. Back then, those parking lot gypsies paid by weight – crushing cans into smelly aluminum hockey pucks and “accidentally” getting some gravel in the bottom of some of them. Instead of RC Cola, my money went towards action figures and Combos snacks (pizza flavored).

With such positive experiences of recycling in my youth, I didn’t waste much time in returning to the earth-saving habit in my 20s. In theory, it should’ve been simpler this time around. No walks around town were needed to gather recyclables. Thanks to my brand spankin’ new liver-destroying habit, I was generating enough empties on my own. Not to mention, the HI 5 tax was now in place, paying by the unit so no crushing was needed. This was going to be a piece of cake… so I thought.

I stood in a hot gravel lot in Mo’ili’ili. The Reynolds recycling truck were run by two disgruntled off-season carnies that were hellbent on ruining everyone else’s day. I fanned away some wasps to grab one of their plastic bins and emptied out my glass bottles. Before I know it, one of the workers snatches the bin from me, reaches in and pulls out a wine bottle, waves it in their air and mustered his 8th grade public speaking skills to lecture the line of people in back of me on how certain glass bottles are not welcomed. Some bottles aren’t HI 5 taxed, I get it. But does he have to be such a dick about it? Can’t they recycle it anyway for the good of the planet even if they weren’t gonna pay me for it? Even if not, couldn’t he just politely discard the bottle on the side, in a reject bin or something? No, this miserable mouth-breather had to cherish the brief minute of authority he had over me to ruin my day.

The cashier tried to lecture me about the wrong bottle thing too while she handed me a clipboard to sign for my cash. I briefly resurrected my cursive skills to jot some obscenities in the fanciest way possible and left. I told myself, never again will I recycle. The planet is gonna have to go down in flames and it’s because of those two pricks.

Fast forward about 8 years and I’m now married with children and a homeowner. I have a few guests over to destroy our livers – yes, I held fast to that habit. Empties were inevitable and they asked if I was recycling. I dunno if having kids had made me soft, or if time healed the earth-burning hatred I held near to my heart. I replied with “uh, sure” and pointed to a spot on the side of my house. The next morning, I was faced with a pile of empty green bottles (cheehoo). My daughter had a blast sorting and bagging them with me. Sure, it was all fun and games now but I wasn’t looking forward to being subjected to jerks at the redemption center.

I now live in the suburbs and the redemption center out here is an actual center… not an abandoned parking lot. I pulled into Waipahu Recycling and was surprised at their smooth operation. There was a line of about 8 cars long but it moved fairly quickly. A few tweets and a foursquare check-in later, it was my turn to pull up. There were enough staff members where there was someone dedicated to handling my recyclables. I gave the guy my bags and he just waived me to park in the waiting area. For the next few minutes, my name was “Honda,” as they kept track of everyone by the car they drove. There were no more questions after that. When they were ready to pay “Honda,” I was there at the counter to sign for my money and was politely thanked.

Tell Captain Planet that Fernando’s back on the team. My super powers consist of being able to empty a 12 pack of green bottles and recycle them down the street… once the buzz wears off.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s