Recycling guilt

“What’s all this shiny stuff?” Bins asks. It looks like bubble wrap made of shiny mirror-plastic. “It’s from Blue Apron,” I say, referring to the subscription service which delivers cartons of food and recipes to would-be home-chefs such as myself. “That’s the insulation material the cartons are lined with.” He looks around the small apartment. “Are you stockpiling it?” he asks. “There’s enough here to build an igloo the size of the Ritz.”

True enough. Each carton is lined with about four square feet of insulating bubble-wrap. It’s folded and shaped to form very neat rectangular envelopes, so that the food can be transported without refrigeration for the final leg of the journey. I began subscribing to Blue Apron two years ago. Over this period of time I’ve averaged around one carton a month. That’s a LOT of bubble wrap.

“And you’re just hoarding it?” says Bins, sounding incredulous. “In neatly folded little piles all over the house?” I tell him there’s even more downstairs, in the storage area. “I don’t know what to do with it!” I say in my most whiny tone. According to Blue Apron, there are recycling facilities in every state. But when I try to locate one near Elsewhere, the rotating spiral on my computer’s screen just churns around and around, finding nothing.

“Have you asked Muriel?” Bins asks, “she knows everything.” Yes, I have. “According to her, my best option is to use the regular garbage,” I say, pointing out beyond the kitchen window. There’s a very conveniently located dumpster belonging to Dunkin’ Donuts nearby. The residents of this building are permitted to chuck non-recyclable garbage there. “All right,” says Bins, now speaking in the voice that Bruce Willis uses when trying to get his five-year-old daughter to defuse the ticking time-bomb that’s about to blow up the planet. “Then, what you need to do is, take all these acres of shiny bubble-wrap and... THROW THEM IN THE DUMPSTER!!” he finishes with a roar.

I am unfazed. “I can’t,” I say to him. “I’ll die of guilt. I know it SHOULD be recycled but I’m too lazy to find out how.” He says that the choice is death by guilt or death by bubble-wrap. “Because it’s everywhere. Behind the fridge. Under the beds. Inside the cupboard. I’m surprised you’re not making it into clothes!” I shake my head. “Nah. I thought of that. Too hot! It’s insulation material after all.” He clutches his head. “But we can’t just go on and on collecting it!” I nod, looking sad and worried. “What to do?”

Then a light bulb appears over his head. “Okay! I have the solution,” he says. “I will do the chucking!” I look aghast. “That’s just as bad!” “Not at all,” he grins, “because I’ll do it without telling you!” Then he tiptoes out of the house like a brigand on a reckless mission, carrying a load of bubble wrap to the dumpster.

Manjula Padmanabhan, author and artist, writes of her life in the fictional town of Elsewhere, US, in this weekly column

Published on June 21, 2019

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