Over the Hill

Lessons in recycling

Phil Dirkx
Phil Dirkx

I learned something Tuesday afternoon: “Don’t crush plastic bottles or aluminum cans.” Let me explain.

I went Tuesday morning to the Paso Robles Recycling Center near the north end of Riverside Avenue. Its gates were locked. There was a piece of paper on them from Waste Management Inc. It said the center was “ceasing operations” at 4:30 p.m. July 3. That was the previous Thursday.

I was annoyed. My van was loaded with three big black plastic bags of plastic bottles, two shopping bags of sparkling-cider bottles and 12 or 14 shopping bags of old newspapers.

Waste Management also said its recycling center at 7625 San Luis Ave. in Atascadero was still open, but I didn’t want to go that far. I returned home and Googled “recycling centers.” It delivered a jumble of ads, announcements and reviews that didn’t help much.

So, I went to the Atascadero recycling center after all. I arrived about 11:25 a.m. and found a line of cars and pickups waiting, not only in the center’s driveway but also on the street in front. I joined the line as did others behind me.I turned off my engine and waited. The line moved forward maybe three car lengths every 10 or 15 minutes.

The narrow driveway ran between the recycling building on one side and a hill or wall on the other. After an hour in line I finally reached the center’s back lot. I parked near two other vehicles that were already haphazardly parked in the unloading area.

My plastic and glass bottles were weighed, and earned me $14 and change. My newspapers weren’t worth anything, but I was allowed to throw them into a bin. When I got home I decided I needed expert advice on selling my recyclable bottles and cans. So I went to the barbershop.

And sure enough, one of the shop’s other patrons said he’d sold bottles and cans to a recycling station in a shopping center and was satisfied. It’s at Creston and Niblick/Sherwood roads.

I visited it the following morning with a few leftover plastic bottles and aluminum cans. Several people were there ahead of me with large quantities of bottles and cans waiting for the attendant to accept them.

Fortunately the recycling station also has an automated sorting machine, into which you feed cans and bottles one at a time. And I learned it won’t accept crushed plastic bottles or cans.

The machine gave me an 85-cent coupon redeemable at the nearby supermarket for groceries or cash. I’ll probably go back to that recycling station with my next big accumulation of recyclables. I may have to wait, but at least I won’t be alone in a hot car.