Trash Talk

At night while my husband sleeps, I slip out of bed and sneak into the kitchen. No, I’m not a secret eater out to nab an illicit brownie; it’s even worse—I’m a secret recycler.

Under cover of darkness I dig through the kitchen garbage, pushing aside wet coffee grounds and day-old cat food to gather bottles, cans and jars and transfer them to the outside recycle bin. I’m a P-61 Stealth Binner, forced to these drastic measures because I married—the anti-recycler.

Don’t get me wrong; he’s not an evil man. If I shaved his head I’d only find six-six-five. He simply refuses to recycle. “We didn’t have kids,” he says, “so we’ve already done our bit for the environment.” His theory is that the negative exponential population growth caused by non-procreation has earned us a Cap and Trade credit. This entitles him to pursue his life-long dream of leaving behind the world’s largest carbon footprint.

My fear of being caught recycling required a cover story. If detected, I’d say, “I forgot to water the tomatoes.” One winter night, though, my husband discovered my deceit when I forgot that in January we had no tomatoes.

Since then he periodically follows me on my nocturnal kitchen rounds, flips on the lights, and delights in trapping me in full deer-in-the-headlights mode. Denial is impossible while hiding 12 smelly cat food cans under my robe. He then pulls a Church Lady, “Well, aren’t you the best little recycler.” It sounds like he’s praising a two-year-old who’s finally mastered the potty seat. Sometimes he just says, “I asked you not to do that!” It’s a good thing we wrote our own wedding vows because, though I promised to love and honor, I left out that pesky part about obeying.

Now my husband sets me up to catch me in flagrante recyclo. He’ll leave empty plastic decoy bottles on the kitchen counter—and wait. And when I believe he’s safely in his workshop, I take the bait. Then it’s all Wild Kingdom. Out of nowhere, he pounces, and I go down like a gazelle at the water hole. Not really, but you get the idea.

He once piled cardboard boxes in the garbage bin because he knew I’d be compelled to move them to the recycle bin. That night, as I was about to perform the delicate transfer, I tripped his newly installed motion-detector light and it was deer-in-the headlights all over again. Luckily, in deference to the neighbors, he’d forgone the siren.

Hiding a love affair from my husband would be easier than recycling. I’d just say, “Honey, I’m off to water aerobics.” And when I get home all sweaty and wet, he’d say, “So, how was class?”

Because of my husband’s tenacity, I’m ashamed to say, I’ve given up. And I’m racked with recycler’s guilt because all our trash goes directly into a landfill. My husband contends that eventually the landfill loses its fill status and just becomes land, which we need more of, what with the growing population—that we did not contribute to—so in the long run he’s actually helping humanity.

Maybe I’m not smart enough to understand this logic, or maybe I’m just tired, but it’s hard to argue with. And anyway, I’d just be using old, recycled arguments.