Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Recycle this....

Last year, we bought some camping gas for the lamps we have. They take the butane gas canisters that are sold all over the place. Eco-person that I am, I knew that you aren't supposed to just pitch them because they may still contain gas, are under pressure, and thus bad for the landfill (you could blow up the disintegrating slurpies residing there....), so I looked around for a place to recycle them.

round 1: I called the trash company and they would not take them and they had no clue who would. They did mention it's illegal to dump unpunctured gas cannisters in the trash. Duh, I already knew that. But wait, unpunctured? Well, yes. Punctured cannisters are actually recycleable because it's then just a metal can and Waste Management really loves that stuff. OK. They suggested I call my local city refuse department for disposal instructions. I called the city they didn't know either, but referred me to the FDA crime unit here in St. Louis. They had an answering machine on and never called back. No wonder our country is going to pot.

round 2: I called REI (where we bought them). They didn't know, although they did know that you could not just pitch them. They didn't know if it was responsible thing to sell something that cannot be recycled and which is illegal to throw in the trash (it is, after all, potentially an explosive device....). I asked them if I am the only one in the nation buying these and they confirmed that this is not the case. I called several other REI stores, including the one in Berkeley, and nobody really had an answer.
I also started researching how to puncture a gas cannister, and there are several commercially available options. Since I don't have to puncture 2000 cans a month, it did not seem a viable option to purchase the device. Still could not find anybody around here who would take them.

round 3: I emailed Snow Peak, the company that produced the canisters and also Coleman. Coleman never ansered my email, but after a few weeks a representative from Snow Peak replied to my email with the response that she frequently punctures the canisters with a nail or other sharp object once it's empty after which it becomes just another piece of metal which is very recyclable indeed. They also sell a gizmo that helps you do that. I wrote back that although I had thought of that, I wasn't comfortable doing the thing with the 'nail that I have lying around', but could she expand on the use of the gizmo? She did, and so here is the result: I practiced on a can of cooking oil, figuring that it's not as explosive as camping gas. It was pretty easy to puncture both cannisters, using the instructions on the puncture tool as well as the rep's suggestion of putting the can on soft ground to prevent it from rolling away. Oh yeah, and she stressed that the can should be really empty. I am now sporting a bruise on my hand from whacking the puncture tool, so next time I'll use a small wooden thingy, or will be more careful. I think that it's more technique than brute force as the metal is not really that thick. Even though the can was really empty (I didn't hear any escaping gase when it was punctured), I ended up taking it out of the recycle bin after I opened it about 30 minutes later and this gas smell came wafting out of it. I guess empty is not really empty. I let it sit outside overnight and now it seems to really, really be empty.

The kids are taking skating lessons at the Rec Center. Christopher was a little doubtful about it at first, but last week he had a really good time, so this week when I called them away from playing and told them it was time to take another skating lesson there were no protests. They learn a lot in half an hour. We had taken them before on the ice and I had made the mistake of giving Katherine a little walker-like device to which she clung for dear life. No such items are allowed in class and they have learned more in the first half hour than I was able to do in the two hours that we took them before. Ah, the advantages of a curriculum and young instructors full of energy.


Christopher had a bit of a nasty fall just after I made the pictures and hurt his wrists and elbows (he has a bruise on his elbow now) so he sat with me for a few minutes and didn't want to go back on the ice, but one of his instructors, Jessica, came over and asked him if he would try again if she would stay with him, and so he did. I thought that was really neat how she got him to go back on the ice immediately after a scary fall. Nicely done of her.

Katherine did really well and didn't fall once yesterday. They were working on going backward by wiggling your behind. Very funny to watch all these little kids wiggle back and forth like earthworms on a sidewalk. All in all a nice class. I told the kids that now we'll have to go back more frequently to practice what they learned in the class and they were both open to that right after class yesterday, so I guess thats' what we'll do this weekend.

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