Part 1: Recycling Plant
What’s the difference between a recycling plant and recycling a plant? Just to clarify, I am not speaking about agriculture here; in my urban Chicagoland jungle, plant means industry. As is my nature, after moving to a new location, I frenetically bushwhack through metropolitan mulch. I dodge chain restaurants like weeds (aside from Chipotle) and sniff out those hidden flowers that flash the true colors of the city.
My recent harried wanderings have delivered me to this recycling riddle comparing a recycling plant and recycling an (industrial) plant. This first post introduces the recycling plant with my commentary progressing soon on the interwebs.
During my first month blustering around the windy city, I have happened upon various hidden gems of the visual, theatrical, and edible persuasions. All were stunning or enlightening with the exception of an unfortunate goat tostada from La Basura Bodega that seemed to enlighten nothing but my septic system.
A rapid run bike through of my few weeks here would reveal adventures including but not limited to:
1) Watching the sunrise over Lake Michigan
2) Doing headstands in my office where I work for the Governor of Illinois
3) Driving an entirely electric car from Nissan at sunset along the lake
4) Going out for pizza with the Governor
5) Assembling a bicycle (with help) and then biking 20 miles roundtrip to Chicago’s Desi corridor for delicious delicacies from Pakistan and India
8) Blasting Kanye/Jay-Z while driving a government car around Illinois to report on hearings
9) Mingling with glitterati at a wine and hors d’oeuvre reception at the Chicago Yacht Club
10) Exploding over bike handlebars and onto pavement after losing a battle with a curb
Yet this week may take the cake (or flan depending on where you are). Last Thursday in a nostalgic reminder of the pleasures of elementary school, I took a field trip during work. No need to forge any parental permission slips, though. It was a sanctioned tour of Recycling Services, a private company that exists as the largest recycling service in Chicago.
My tour was a refreshing reminder that matter does not simply disappear after you flush the toilet or drag a trash bag to the curb. My enthusiasm waxed as I watched in graphic, gory detail the process of collecting, sorting, sanitizing, and monetizing our recycling goods. I saw employees meticulously extract waste materials from accelerating conveyor belts and shred materials before compressing and packaging the scraps. The tour culminated with a delicious feast of wine, cheese, shrimp, and gourmet hamburgers after which I was sure to recycle and compost my utensils and food.
It was an impressive display in a city that proactively sustains recycling infrastructure. It even allays conservative or libertarian environmental skepticism because it succeeds through capitalistic, free market participation. This for-profit recycling plant wants to make money. It makes money by increasing recycling. It’s a win-win.
In a recessionary world of big industry that wants to Thank You for Smoking, it’s exciting to see this type of plant thriving. As the owner explained, “Paper is booming in the capital markets”. It’s almost enough to make me print this blog out and recycle the paper. But not quite. Yet how does one go further and actually recycle an industrial plant. Stay tuned…