I’m Turning into my Mother: Recycling Edition

I looked at the Gatorade bottle lying in the rocks. My hand itched to pick it up, my mind battled with the logic behind it. There isn’t much for recycling on the island, but they do recycle aluminum cans and plastic bottles. Either way, it was far from the dump…and it would be so easy to pick it up and take it home.

I laughed to myself as I bent down and picked it up and then again when I saw an empty can half buried in the snow.

I had gone on a walk around my corner of the island to take pictures and enjoy the relatively warm (above zero) sunshine. Similarity number one: my mother and I both enjoy walks around our neighborhoods. Similarity number two: we both have the continuous need to pick up trash as we go.

By the time I reached home, I not only had two things to recycle, but I was also carrying an old spark plug (which I honestly have no idea what I’m going to do with it). That doesn’t seem like much, but I only walked about half a city block away from my home!



It pains me to see trash on the ground and it pains me just as much to throw recycling in the trash. This was something I dealt with while living in Brazil. Although my roommate and I recycled, there weren’t bins all over the place and most of our neighbors would throw their empty cans and bottles in the community garbage. There was a time or two that I made Sofia help me carry empty bottles to the recycling area.

My family has always recycled and we’ve always separated our recycling. It is a part of me that I don’t want to give up…even if I am now the weirdo that collects empty aluminum cans at the end of Superbowl parties, or hangs out after school events to pick up anything that could be recycled.


I even started paying my students (in classroom currency) 1 Qavvik Buck per recyclable item that they bring in. Although, it was only fitting that our first reading unit was on recycling. We even thought about class composting, but I’m not ready to tackle that outside of the home, yet.


The village can’t process the recycling here, so recycling is taken off the island by bush plane which means that it is one less thing to be placed into our landfill that is often scattered into the surrounding water by fierce winds and animals. Granted, it may not be as simple as figuring out where to take it (my student’s mom runs the program), but I feel like I have to give it a try.

There could be worse people to be turning into, so, Mom, I’ll take it.


3 thoughts on “I’m Turning into my Mother: Recycling Edition

  1. best of luck. We had a water crisis at school earlier this year and the district shipped out bottled water for the kids, which really sucked for a lot of classroom management reasons and also because there isn’t a real recycling program in Arctic. I made the kids ‘recycle’ them, so we now have boxes and bags of crushed bottles in a storage closet waiting to be transported to Fairbanks. One of these days, one of us teachers will have the gumption to drag them onto the plane and locate a recycling center in Fairbanks, but it hasn’t happened yet.
    My understanding is that a lot of villages have trouble recycling because folks don’t rinse out their pop cans, so they freeze with a sticky goop in them and then leak all over the plane. The airlines don’t care much for that.


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