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To the Dump, To the Dump

December 9, 2022

Another Way for week of December 2, 2022

To the Dump, To the Dump

I’m using a takeoff from “The Lone Ranger” TV show theme song as the title for this column because we used to sing something like “To the Dump, To the Dump, To the Dump Dump Dump” on Saturday morning excursions to our local dump or landfill when the children were small. (If you listened to the song above, good luck getting that earworm out of your head!)

We used to load our trash into barrels (old 55-gallon glue barrels my husband got free from the wood products factory where he worked) on the back of our truck. That was always a major chore/undertaking. We even took our dog. Stuart would say, “Jump, Wendy,” and she would excitedly jump onto the back end and he’d close the tailgate. She adored a trip to the dump.  

Our first dog, Wendy, excited to go anywhere, especially the dump.

As our family grew, the dump was sometimes a place we would even find toys such as a very small merry-go-round, or metal for some project my husband was working on—this was in the days when scavenging was actually allowed. It was gross though, rummaging through stuff. I was secretly very glad when they put a stop to that.

On a recent visit to our greatly updated landfill, a young woman working at the recycling bins surprised me.

Our local landfill and container site.

“How long have you been recycling?” she asked amicably. I knew she was doing “community service” work (likely for getting into some kind of trouble). The workers are usually teens and their role is basically to straighten out things put in the wrong container, and clean up scraps people accidentally leave behind.

Usually, they don’t interact with me so I was pretty stunned that she opened a conversation. I started figuring. “Oh, probably close to 40 years now,” I said, recalling that widespread recycling came into the picture somewhere in the 80s.

She expressed surprise and I would have loved to talk to her longer but I didn’t want to infringe on her privacy or time. I wanted to ask if she knew whether the recycled items actually made it to a place that recycled them, or if they were just dumped in the landfill, as the rumor goes.

Unfortunately, I do understand that as little as six to nine percent of the plastics that are placed in recycling bins get recycled due to various factors: some get incinerated, some is too dirty or contaminated with food scraps etc. and is not usable. Plus, some of the higher numbers of plastics beyond type 1 and 2 get mixed in with the 1’s and 2’s which means the recycling center has to reject it for their purposes. Cardboard and newspaper have a much higher rate of being recycled, something like 68 percent according to Judith Enck, a former U.S. Environmental Protection Agency official.

Pizza boxes will get tossed out of cardboard recycling bins: if it has grease on it, out it goes.

I’m glad that many children seem to be interested in recycling. One day our four-year-old grandson was walking with us to our car from an impromptu picnic near my office (at the time). James swooped down to pick up a piece of litter on the sidewalk. I appreciated his concern and effort, but was a bit appalled at the dirt and germs.

Recycling pop cans (either glass bottles or aluminum) was part of early recycling. As a kid my husband remembers going to summer carnivals or “lawn parties” as we call them here in Virginia, and picked up bottles and got paid for each one he turned in. I also remember the days when Scouts would canvas neighborhoods collecting newspapers to recycle.

Most of us could do better, at least recycling water bottles and other plastic containers at home numerous times. For instance, refill and reuse the same water bottle, or store leftovers in things like sour cream or cottage cheese containers. That saves money and plastic. I recently noticed that my favorite jars of Kirkland mixed nuts—a treat I only dare keep in my pantry at Christmas—are now packaged in reusable “pouches” or bags made of 30 percent post-consumer recycled content. It will be interesting to see what develops in years to come.


What do you recycle? Where? What do you wish was recyclable?

What do you know/can you share about what gets re-used as post-consumer waste

and what gets pushed into a landfill? I’m curious!


Or for more information online go to

Comment here or write to me at or Another Way Media, P.O. Box 363, Singers Glen, VA 22834.

Another Way is a column by Melodie Davis, in syndication since 1987. She is the author of ten books, most recently Memoir of an Unimagined Career. Another Way columns are posted at a week after newspaper publication.  

  1. I’m a nut about recycling, which our city encourages. Every two weeks a truck with animated arms picks up our glass, plastic and metal in a huge bin. Aware that grease and liquids affect the recycling, I rinse out milk bottles and eliminate food scraps. Also, grocery stores here have receptacles for recycling–Target too.

    Yesterday, Cliff found four pairs of my old glasses in the carousel between the driver and passenger seats, items he found after he dropped me off for an eye doctor visit. Later, I fit all of them on, and found just one pair that could help me see to drive if I ever mislay my newest pair, an update just a few months ago. I guess I’ll have to research where to take the old pairs; I know they can be recycled somehow. Hmmm! 😀

    • A nut, huh, my daughter will totally approve that nuttiness. 🙂 Thanks for describing your situation there; we see some grocery stores etc. with large trash cans for recycling plastic and bags, but not cans or bottles etc.

      As far as recycling old glasses, ask around if there are any Lion Club boxes–probably would have them at whatever store you buy glasses, We recycle many many here in Virginia and are getting a site just 40 miles away (used to have to drive 2 hours to Roanoke) to an office and center where we help grade and recycle and wash (in a dishwasher) before they go to many needy areas of the world. I hope you find some locations there. I found this in a quick search online:

      Glad you found those pesky glasses!!

  2. Very helpful. I will check my nearby LensCrafter’s store or find a Walmart vision center. 😀

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