Jim Crowe: Albany's Recycle Cart

Apr 29, 2018

A while back, the city of Albany expanded its cart-based recycling program to include many more residences. Across the city, we now see the tall, blue, two-wheeled mega-carts that replace the little blue bins of old.

Called Big Blue, the new recycle cart, billed as more efficient, is drawing a wide range of resident reaction. Touring the city, I did an informal survey of many Albanians, and then sorted the comments by resident group. As you will see, some resident groups overlap, but can that really matter?

  • One-person households

“Yippee! Big Blue has changed my whole trash life! Now I take out the recycled stuff every three months – that big boy must hold 400 gallons. I put out the recycle on the special days, like spring equinox and summer solstice. It’s like a pagan ritual now.”

  • Households of three or more people

“Finally! Before Big Blue, we were scrounging around every Tuesday to get more of those little blue bins. Most weeks, I’d have four bins, but two tops – maddening!”

  • People with a small, attached garage where one car can barely squeeze in (this group is larger than you’d think)

“Curses! No way can I fit my car and this Big Blue behemoth into my garage. Look at this cart – it’s like a refrigerator. They say it’s 700 gallons.

“Before, in the garage, my little blue bin fit perfect in front of the car, so it was nice and handy. But now the city says don’t use the little bin. Now I have to store that damn Big Blue out in the boondocks. Please, Mayor Sheehan – bring back Baby Blue!” 

  • Compulsive online shoppers

“Love the Tall Boy! You know Fed Ex and UPS?  I keep ‘em hoppin.’ Boxes, boxes at my door! Before, I had so much cardboard piled up that I kept a spare room for it. That tiny bin just couldn’t cut it. The Tall Boy saved me – I need every last one of those 1200 gallons.

“Now it’s easy. Broken down boxes go from my living room right into the Tall Boy. I cut out the middleman -- that nasty cardboard room -- and life is good. Less work – more shopping!”

  • Trash philosophers

“I hate repeating the same pattern if it’s not helping my life. This was my pattern: I come home from work on a very windy trash pickup day. I notice my bin top’s been blown down the street and run over by a few cars. I scoop up the bin top remains and toss them into the next week’s trash. I hunt around for a new top.

“But now -- new cart has attached top. Bad behavior pattern vanquished. All hail Big Blue!”

Toward the end of my recycle cart survey of Albany residents, I spoke with a city official involved in the recycling program. I told him that, across the city, comments on Big Blue were running 85% positive. I added, though, that many residents, either math-challenged or overexcited by the issue, were having trouble naming the actual gallons in Big Blue.

“Gotta be 2000,” he said. “It’s a monster.”

Essayist Jim Crowe is an Albany Resident

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