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Please Take Us Back, China! Please.

May 11th, 2018 by dk

Dear China,

Please take us back. At least take our stuff back. We had some good years together and then things went bad. We’re sorry. It’s just not the same without you. You were right and we were wrong. We see that now. We’ll do better. We’ve changed. You’ll see. Just give us another chance.

You started complaining about our recycling standards a while ago, but we didn’t really pay much attention. We figured it was just something you said to let off a little container-cleansing steam. We didn’t think you were serious. We certainly didn’t think you were talking about us.

But now that we have to throw away all that plastic we collect, it really stings. We can’t bear to look when we’re filling up our trash. It’s amazing how quickly it spills over the top. We’ll need to get larger trash cans and more landfills if we can’t patch things up with you.

You may not understand how much this hurts us in Oregon. The West Coast has more environmental consciousness than the rest of our country. Every holiday back home includes some reference to how much more careful we are about our trash. We hear “green” as a value first and as a color second.

But the rest of the West Coast has it easier. California uses tons more plastic than we do, but when they begin to feel bad about it, they can take that angst and make a movie out of it. Our neighbors in Seattle can write software or ship products that somehow make the world better.

In between, here in Oregon, recycling is just about all we’ve got. We’re nothing without you. Once our trash bins look like everybody else’s, there’s nothing special about us. Sure, we can take a long walk in the woods, but we’re bound to see some discarded ziplock plastic bags left behind by competitive hikers. That just reminds us all over again how we did you wrong, how we need you back.

We’ll do anything. We’ll give back our commingled collection containers. We wondered if that was really such a good idea in the first place. We’ll sort everything ourselves, if it means we can recycle lids again. We’ll go back to open receptacles so all the neighbors can see how we’re doing. Neighbors used to do that around here, calling out scofflaws.

We’ll wash everything by hand, or run every container through the dishwasher. We’ll flatten our cardboard completely. We’ll cut out the bottoms of our cans and flatten those too. We’ll even soak the cans and remove the paper labels. We used to do that, before somebody decided recycling should be easy.

We see things more clearly now. Nothing easy is really worth it, and nothing worthwhile is ever easy. We’ll take classes to learn more about what we can do. We’ll wear ribbons or buttons to recruit others to the cause.

Forget about collecting it all. We’ll bring our recycling to a central location, where it can be inspected for cleanliness. We’ll show our ID, we’ll sign an affidavit, we’ll name two Master Recyclers as character witnesses.

We’ll stack everything neatly and store it all in our garage or in our spare bedroom. We’ll tote it onto a barge ourselves, if that’s what it takes — return postage guaranteed!

Install cameras in our kitchens so you can randomly watch us clean every container. We’ll stamp every item with our social security number, if that’s what it will take for you to trust us. We won’t cheat again. We promise.

We feel terrible about the assumptions we made. We didn’t try as hard as we could, because we didn’t believe we’d ever really lose you.

We know things can’t go back to the way things were. We understand that. We want what you want. We want things to be different. We can get back together again, but it’ll be better this time.

We’re crawling over crushed-but-not-yet-recycled glass to win back your favor. Please don’t kick us to the curb again. The neighbors will be watching.


Eugene Oregon


Don Kahle ( blogs at

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