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 HighOnAdventure.com  October 1, 2008
Cardboard conundrum
by Lance K. Pugh

When we first moved to Ashland in the early `70s the air seemed charged with recycling possibilities. We set up a compost pile in the garden, saved paper bags, went shopping with a cloth tote and snuggled up to the Oregon bottle bill, which was passed in 1971. We were smug in our knowledge that under Governor Tom McCall, Oregon became known as an environmental leader through the passing of landmark legislation on such issues as land use, the open beach bill, cleaning up the Willamette River, and forming the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality.

Ashland Sanitary used to pick up most anything that you threw into a metal trash can. Recycling was an individual task that one either ignored or adopted like a religion. Middle ground was hard to find.

If a lawyer or real estate broker commingles funds, licenses can be revoked, fines circle overhead and jail time is a possibility. Yet if you refuse to commingle your recycling, it goes without being picked up. A 65-gallon roll cart with a blue lid and a blue bin for glass must accept all recycling.

I have a bit of difficulty remembering which pick-up day is "blue" (commingled recycling) and which is a "green" (yard debris in a 95-gallon roll cart with a green lid) day. I know that I'm not alone in this muddle, as every trash day there is sampling of both "blue" and "green." Hey, I'm not stupid, so I put out both each week, just to be sure.

For many years cardboard had only to be broken down and stacked on the curb (with a brick atop for unexpected winds). I was happy with the practice, though some of those larger boxes were robust and hard to tame.

The other day I noticed that a pile of cardboard that I had carefully arranged and weighted sat neglected after everything else had be taken away. I called to learn that, henceforth, all cardboard had to fit inside the roll cart, which is picked up and emptied by an hydraulic arm.

I looked at the pile of cardboard and gulped. I soon found out that scissors or a knife were of little use. I was afraid to purchase box cutters, knowing that the congress had just given the president the power to imprison indefinitely and willfully torture anyone who he might call an enemy combatant. There was no quicker way of earning this label than by walking around with box cutters in your pocket.

I weighed my options, then purchased an electric chain saw and in a dervish cloud of cellulose had the boxes reduced to pizza sized pieces. (Note: do not put a pizza box, dog food bag, candy wrapper, foil, frozen food boxes, paper cups and plates, snack food bags, shredded paper, stickers, tissue, waxed paper, milk cartons or drink boxes in the with cardboard.) If you break these rules you might wake up behind iron bars in Eastern Europe with some overzealous patriot trying to jump-start your privates with a car battery. Just follow the rules, each and every one of them and, chances are, you'll be kept free to mow and water your yard, watch sports on TV and bag groceries after your job has been outsourced to one of our trusted allies, like Pakistan.

The night before the next pick-up I had a little accident. While cutting an especially large and tough cardboard container in the dark I got tangled up in the extension cord, slipped and cleaved the blue roll cart in half as I went down with a thud. The next morning it was revealed that I had somehow put an empty yogurt container in the cart, which resulted in a visit by an arm of Homeland Security. I was told that what I had done was a "gateway" offense and would surely lead to more brazen disregard of rules and regulation that had been put into effect for my own good and the security of the country.

As I was being led away to a secure and undisclosed location for further questioning I heard the voice of my wife, Annette, float over the fence and down the street to where I was trying to get out of a full-nelson.

"Did you remember to put the Chinese "to go" boxes in the recycle bin?" I would have replied, but upon hearing the question my captors redoubled their restraints, threw a burlap bag over my head and said that I was good to go.

(Lance@journalist.com is apparently on vacation, alone, in some unknown location. He would have written, but it is assumed that there are no laptops at his remote retreat, where he will stay until either he or the yogurt cup are recycled.)

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