Recycling unit red-faced over blue-bin brouhaha

We faithfully put out recycling in plastic kitchen-size trash bins labeled paper, cans, plastic and glass. For years, the city picked up the sorted containers. They missed us last week, so we figured it was a new crew.

Then, it happened again. Apparently, the city no longer picks up recycling unless an official blue recycling container is present. Is there a political issue here related to red or blue states? If I live in the county, do I need a red container? Also, I understand someone got sick working with the plastic recycling.

But do we stop recycling for one incident? Say a Playboy magazine falls open and someone is offended, do we stop recycling paper? The primary purpose of recycling is to recycle, right? I know you and Mrs. Action Line will get to the bottom of this. –Confused

Mrs. Action Line confronted this issue the other day when she was hobnobbing with two of her colleagues.

One gentleman recounted that when he moved into his house, the previous owners apparently took the recycling bin.

No big deal; he simply went down to Kroeger’s and bought a replacement bin. Same size, same blue hue – but no Durango city logo.

Then, his recycling pickups stopped.

Another fellow overheard the conversation and began laughing.

“I moved here from Los Alamos and brought my recycling bin with me,” he said. “It’s proudly embossed with the Los Alamos city logo, yet the city of Durango has picked up my recycling uninterrupted for years from my ‘foreign’ container.”

Countless other stories such as this have emerged of late, the result of a crackdown on makeshift, non-official recycling bins.

“Have you ever made a decision you came to regret?” asked Roy Petersen, general services director for the city. “That was me with recycling bins.”

Peterson explained how the city’s recycling program has grown. “Over the years, some people’s recycling have far exceeded the blue bins,” he said.

People began putting items next to the landfill trash in boxes and small trash bins. Is it garbage or recycling? Hard to say.

So Petersen made a policy call: no pickups unless items are in the official blue bin.

“We mistakenly thought it was just a few households, but judging from the number of complaint calls, it was way more common than we thought,” Peterson said.

“Our mistake,” he admitted. “So we’ve gone back to picking up recycling however people leave their items curbside, blue bin or not.”

Let this be a milestone in civic pride. Our city not only admits mistakes but corrects them. Kudos to Peterson and the city.

As for letting “one incident” alter recycling procedures, Action Line sides with safety. There is a huge difference between a worker inhaling unknown toxins and espying errant erotica.

In addition, many in this community would find a suddenly exposed magazine photo shoot of Rick Santorum and Rush Limbaugh far more offensive than one featuring Miss August or other nymphs.

And finally, the issue of red containers vs. blue containers. It’s not a political issue here but a practical one.

In the trash world, red containers denote biohazard disposal. It is doubtful the city wants to begin recycling your surgical swabs, hypodermic needles and petri dishes.

Not that anyone in Durango is operating a medical center out of the spare bedroom.

For most of us, the biggest biohazard is found in the refrigerator, where untold science experiments slowly ferment in forgotten Tupperware or packages marked “best if used by” and an expiration predating the Clinton administration.

There’s no way to recycle these items. Send them straight to the bin. The big, dark green one with the bear-proof lid.

Email questions to or mail them to Action Line, The Durango Herald, 1275 Main Ave., Durango, CO 80301. You can request anonymity if you please stop putting yogurt cups and berry containers in plastic recycling because the city can’t recycle these yet.