When we last left off, I’d just gotten back to Montauk from a little day trip to Block Island, exploring its recycling center and new off-shore wind farm. And also riding my friend Anna’s bike around, sampling the local food, talking to random strangers . . . Totally fun day.
When I got home early that eve to the house I was sharing “out east” for the summer, the shopping bag that I’d left for my housemates to put their recycling in had grown quite a bit. Ya see, information had previously been circulating that we just had to put our recyclables into the garbage with everything else, and it would be sorted at its final destination.
Well. I was suspect. Hence the bag.
The next day, I went on a mission to the Montauk dump — or more accurately, the Montauk Transfer Station — to find out the truth.
Borrowing Anna’s bike again, I put my beach towel and my 800-page copy of Moby Dick into my backpack; then put the bag of recyclables into a plastic trash bag (which I later re-used) and tied that onto the backpack. The big Poland Springs water jug went into a nylon shopping bag tied to the handlebars. Here’s me, ready to go (and for all you #nomakeup girls, you can kiss my unadorned arse, ’cause this is the real deal):
Then I hit the road to the Transfer Station, a 9-mile round-trip. Miraculously, the bag-on-bag action on my back didn’t slip around and bonk me while I rode. However, about half a mile onto Route 27, I spotted a suspicious package on the shoulder:
I pulled over. It was a Big Bite hotdog box from 7-11 (assumably the one in Montauk). It was clean, and recyclable (cardboard) . . . so I added it to one of my bags and headed onward.
Another half-mile or so further was an empty gallon milk jug (2%). So I stopped for that as well, trying not to get whacked by a car while I photographed it. (What, I’m just gonna let it sit there?) The next item I picked up was an empty but pristine Coca-Cola can. It seems litterbugs ain’t exactly healthy types. A little further down was a single-use coffee cup with plastic lid and cardboard sleeve. And finally, I saw what looked like a large, beached jellyfish in the grass on the side of the road, which turned out to be Quaker Oats plastic bulk packaging (see photos below). I drooped that over my handlebars, letting its tail wave in the wind as I rode.
By the time I got to the Transfer Station, I looked like a beachy bag lady.
“Where’s your sticker?” a fellow patron asked me as I pulled up on my bike, referring to the annual pass you’re supposed to display on your vehicle. He smiled to let me know he was jesting, because it was hard to say much more, what with the patriotic soundtrack that was playing at full volume from a speaker somewhere. Turn up your volume and watch this 15-second video I took — I swear I didn’t add that music . . .
In that booth sat a man — big guy, prob 6’3″, face covered with zinc oxide, and carrying a harpoon that he’d use to spear misplaced items from the recycling bins. Hello? Can you say “Queequeg”?? (Anyone read Moby Dick recently enough to remember?)
His name wasn’t Queequeg, though; it was Roger, and he was much friendlier than “Trudy” of the Block Island Transfer Station from last week. Roger came out of his booth and answered all my questions, telling me the name of guy who the paper goes to, and the other guy the aluminum goes to, who uses a big magnet to pull out the non-aluminum. He told me about one of the uses for the mixed paper:
“Have you ever seen that green stuff they spray onto the side of the road — with the seeds in it?” “Um . . .” I didn’t want to tell him I was from the city, where the only thing I see on the side of the “road” where I live is subway grates and Chase banks. Roger told me about hydroseeding; like mulch, it keeps the seeds warm while they grow. “Is the grass to prevent run-off?” I asked. He nodded proudly.
I took a selfie with him (sadly, the harpoon got cut off). Everybody there was super-duper nice. Roger didn’t even make me pay-to-throw, letting me off the hook since I’d only brought recycling, and no trash. Here’s another short video I took of the festivities — I think it’s pretty cool, considering how ridiculously low-tech it is. (Don’t forget the volume — and the second climax!):
Did you spot any of the items I picked up on the road? Lemme make it easy on ya:
When I was done, I rode back to town and continued on to the beach at Ditch Plains. I watched my friends surf, read Melville (am up to page 124!!), and took my final swim in the Atlantic for the summer. I walked along the water, wrote my desires in the sand with a smooth white rock, watching the waves wash each one away as I went, and then I threw the rock into the sea. I won’t share all my desires here, but one was akin to making the world a better place.
If you want to help me, here are a few options: follow this blog, leave a comment, and recycle your heart out!!! No one’s doing it for you (at least not in Montauk; the private company that picks up house trash does NOT sort it). Better yet, buy less plastic crap, since that’s the real solution.
Next post: “Back to School.” Until then . . .
p.s. For those asking about my Dad, he’ll be getting chemo, but we’re hopeful. Meanwhile I’ve made him promise to eat better . . . although he sure ain’t goin’ vegan!