I collect empty plastic bottles in a box in the garage. When the box overflows, I transfer the bottles to a thirty-gallon plastic bag, put it in the back of the car, and head for the bottle recycling station at Stop & Shop. After I park, I re-stuff the plastic bag with the bottles that have scattered and, already slightly annoyed, haul my unwieldy burden across the parking lot.
There are three machines for returns; one each for cans, plastic and glass. I walk up to the one in the middle, for plastic, and my blood pressure skyrockets, because the display reads, Error, contact service. On the rare occasion that the error message is not displayed, and I am able to start recycling my bottles, I make barely a dent in my collection before the display informs me that the machine is now full and I must contact service.
There is a phone next to the machines for these times, but it dangles false hope. Last time I was there, it was dead. The time before, it was missing altogether. Without a way to summon help, I am in a quandary. Do I walk across the parking lot to put the bag of bottles back in the car before I go into the store to find help, in which case I’ll need to retrace my steps yet again to retrieve them, or do I drag them with me into the store and risk upsetting the more fastidious shoppers? This past weekend, I went into the store, bag and all.
When I saw the line at the customer service desk, I almost cried. A sympathetic, or perhaps nervous, bagger located someone to help me. That person tapped someone to send out to the machine, but then had to track down the employee who had wandered off with the key. Once back outside, I waited while my new best friend removed unprocessed bottles from the maw of the machine, and then emptied the full bags of shredded plastic, tying them very neatly. By the time he was finished, I had been at the store for twenty minutes.
For my aggravation, I claimed one dollar and fifty-five cents.
I don’t think I can bring myself to go through that insane dance one more time. But even though I can afford to sacrifice one dollar and fifty-five cents, it would be a shame not to get that money to someone who needs it. So, next time the box in the garage overflows, I will spend the twenty minutes I would inevitably devote to shredding them at Stop & Shop, to search the web for an individual or a charity to give the bottles to. And the next time I go to the supermarket, I will resist the urge to glance at the display on the plastic bottle machine.