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Recycle. Don’t Recycle. It’s entirely up to you.

July 3rd, 2012 · 74 comments

Portland, Oregon is a city that takes recycling seriously. You might even say too seriously. (But hey, you said it, not me.)

Lacey found this blue tub o’ notes at a Portland food cart pod, where she swears, “I’ve never seen anything but straight-up recyclables in the bin.”

NO TRASH PLEASE RECYCLING ONLY - Maybe you can't read the six other signs. No worries. Rules of society don't apply to you. Go ahead and keep doing whatever the hell you want. Enjoy the rest of your day being a complete dick.

Maybe you can't read the six other signs. No worries. Rules of society don't apply to you. Go ahead and keep doing whatever the hell you want. Enjoy the rest of your day being a complete dick.

related: Are you proud to be an American (who recycles)?

extra credit: Sanitation Twins — Portlandia [youtube]

FILED UNDER: most popular notes of 2012 · recycling

74 responses so far ↓

  • #1   Nami

    Geeze, didn’t know recycling nazis existed. By the way, how can you see the notes when it’s full of recyclables? :P

    Jul 3, 2012 at 3:53 pm   rating: 14  small thumbs up

    • #1.1   Belinda

      Nami does not live anywhere in California. Recycling Nazis rule! We will smash your non-recyling ways!

      Jul 3, 2012 at 4:02 pm   rating: 26  small thumbs up

    • #1.2   nick17

      I’m the office recycling Nazi. Doesn’t every office have one????

      Jul 3, 2012 at 9:21 pm   rating: 7  small thumbs up

    • #1.3   JK

      Are you allowed to put your bucket list in the recycling bucket when you’re done with it, or would that be too meta?

      Jul 3, 2012 at 9:22 pm   rating: 8  small thumbs up

    • #1.4   nick17

      Depends on what kind of paper it’s written on.

      Jul 3, 2012 at 11:36 pm   rating: 5  small thumbs up

    • #1.5   The Elf

      I like to see the Recycling Nazi go head to head with the Trash Commie. Just a warning, though: If you set the building on fire, I will not grant you emergency powers. I learned my lesson on that one.

      Jul 5, 2012 at 7:27 am   rating: 11  small thumbs up

    • #1.6   Wench

      This note just makes me want to start putting all kinds of random things in the recycling bin…. like a shop mannequin or a stuffed badger. This kind of stuff just brings out my mischevious side, I’m afraid….

      Jul 9, 2012 at 9:03 am   rating: 6  small thumbs up

    • #1.7   Nocturnesthesia

      As a Canadian who lived in the US for a time, I never understood what people find so goddamn hard about putting things in the correct bins.

      Jul 15, 2012 at 12:56 am   rating: 2  small thumbs up

    • #1.8   Muddy Mudskipper

      Obviously, it’s NOT filled with recyclables;
      all of the recyclables are in the effin’ trash can!

      Jul 16, 2012 at 8:31 pm   rating: 0  small thumbs up

  • #2   Lysdestic

    …I kind of want to know which pod this is.

    Jul 3, 2012 at 4:32 pm   rating: 1  small thumbs up

    • #2.1   nick17

      I’m betting the one around 52nd and Division.

      Jul 4, 2012 at 7:51 am   rating: 2  small thumbs up

  • #3   Ex-Portlander

    Ugh, I had too many years with those damn hippies. I recycled like a good girl, but maybe if obsessive recycling resulted in no more s.hitty weather, I would have been more patient with their ilk.

    Jul 3, 2012 at 5:00 pm   rating: 4  small thumbs up

  • #4   shwo! bang

    Apparently The Rules Of Capitalization Don’t Apply To The Note Writer. But Bonus Points For Their Use Of The Rare “Sarcastic Sans” Font.

    Jul 3, 2012 at 5:05 pm   rating: 38  small thumbs up

  • #5   Rose

    That must be an inner Portland can. In my neighborhood they collect garbage every other week, with recycling every week and we are now expected to separate our food waste into a special container. And yes, recycle is meticulously sorted.

    It’s kind of annoying.

    In my parents’ neighborhood, however, 30 min. outside the city, they don’t even separate glass.

    Jul 3, 2012 at 5:17 pm   rating: 2  small thumbs up

    • #5.1   jadefirefly

      I live in a small town in MA. Right next door, the town I grew up in, has a terrific recycling program, and given that they charge to pick up garbage (but not recycling), people are more likely to do it.

      One town over? We ain’t got jack for recycling. It’s absolutely nuts how different it can be a couple of miles away.

      Jul 3, 2012 at 8:01 pm   rating: 4  small thumbs up

    • #5.2   Jami

      They don’t pick up recycling where I live. You take it to these trailers at the grocery stores and they give you money for your cans and bottles. Plus there’s places where you can get money for your paper too.

      I think if they did offer to pick up recycling no one would do it. They’d rather go get the money for it themselves.

      Jul 3, 2012 at 10:33 pm   rating: 1  small thumbs up

    • #5.3   deprogrammed

      Our “sanitation engineers” pick up green recycling one week, paper/glass/plastic the next, along with the normal trash pickup. They reserve the right to decide that they will/won’t take and how much. Did I mention we PAY them to pick it up? So they turn in to the major recyclers and get paid for it. And when the homeless come through and take anything with redemption value, these putzes want them charged with theft.

      To my local sanitation engineers: I pay you to take my money. If I deign to let someone who has nothing take the ones for which they can get a lousy nickel, you want them prosecuted.

      I have four cheeks: the ones you don’t kiss you can bite.

      Jul 4, 2012 at 3:01 pm   rating: 15  small thumbs up

    • #5.4   Jami

      Heck, you should really tick them off and give your recycling directly to the homeless in front of them.

      Jul 4, 2012 at 9:59 pm   rating: 3  small thumbs up

    • #5.5   Dr.Chalkwitheringlicktacklefeff

      As an actual engineer, the term “sanitation engineer” makes me a little sad :(

      Jul 6, 2012 at 5:52 am   rating: 12  small thumbs up

  • #6   claire

    I Live In Portland And There Are Many Recycling Nazis Here. I Chalk It Up To This Philosophy:

    This Is America. It’s My Right To Choose Where My Garbage Ends Up. If You Don’t Like It, You Can Just Get Out.

    They Took Our Jobs ;)

    Jul 3, 2012 at 6:05 pm   rating: 5  small thumbs up

  • #7   donmuerte bang

    Here’s the thing about this one: San Francisco (and a few other places, I believe) has laws that require people to separate compost, recycling, and “landfill”. Failure to do so results in the business getting fined. As a result, careless people not doing this results in the employees on the lower end of things having to literally go trash digging to pull people’s nastiness out of them and file them appropriately. Definitely something to be pissed about. :)

    Jul 3, 2012 at 6:22 pm   rating: 25  small thumbs up

    • #7.1   donmuerte bang

      As a result, I resulted to redundant redundancy.

      Jul 3, 2012 at 7:35 pm   rating: 7  small thumbs up

    • #7.2   makfan bang

      I live in SF as well, and we definitely have to sort our recycling and compostable waste very carefully.

      My company (south of San Francisco) started a composting/recycling/waste program a few months back. Even with pictures of what was compostable, what was recyclable and what was waste (very little nowadays), engineers with multiple advanced degrees walk up to the cans and throw their paper plates and corn based utensils in the recycling bin and the plastic wrap from their crackers in the compost bin.

      It’s really not that complicated.

      Jul 3, 2012 at 9:35 pm   rating: 13  small thumbs up

    • #7.3   AmyInToronto

      I’m fascinated by “corn-based utensils”. Engineers toss away perfectly useful cornspoons and cornforks?

      Jul 4, 2012 at 9:55 am   rating: 8  small thumbs up

    • #7.4   H for Toy

      And corn sporks!

      Jul 4, 2012 at 10:18 pm   rating: 5  small thumbs up

    • #7.5   quat

      Yes, they do. So do the undereducated. It’s not a class thing. :)

      Jul 9, 2012 at 8:43 pm   rating: 0  small thumbs up

  • #8   a7

    I don’t recycle. It’s not good for the economy, and it’s not even that great for the environment. What are they going to do? Go through my trash? Have fun. How are they going to prove it’s from my house? LOL

    Jul 3, 2012 at 8:40 pm   rating: 3  small thumbs up

    • #8.1   A. Fox


      Jul 3, 2012 at 9:46 pm   rating: 14  small thumbs up

    • #8.2   aynur

      lol Americans

      Jul 4, 2012 at 2:41 am   rating: 1  small thumbs up

    • #8.3   DrChalkwitheringlicktacklefeff

      To be fair a7 is technically accurate insofar as “not that great” is a completely nebulous phrase that means absolutely nothing. How great is “great”? Anything, no matter how great, could be described as “not that great” if “that great” is even greater than “great”.

      Jul 5, 2012 at 5:53 am   rating: 7  small thumbs up

    • #8.4   DrChalkwitheringlicktacklefeff

      Also, read what I just said outloud and see if the word “great” starts to sound weird.

      Jul 5, 2012 at 5:54 am   rating: 6  small thumbs up

    • #8.5   The Elf

      It’s grating, for sure.

      Jul 5, 2012 at 12:27 pm   rating: 6  small thumbs up

    • #8.6   Dr.Chalkwitheringlicktacklefeff

      I’m also a little dubious as to the claim that it’s not good for the economy. Some specific sectors may suffer, but other business will appear to fill those niches. If we stop wasting plastics, the petrochemical industry will shrink, but consumers will have a little bit more money to spend on other stuff instead. At the end of the day, people will always spend pretty much whatever money they have, so a clever business willing to innovate and adapt will always be able to sell shit to us.

      Jul 6, 2012 at 5:55 am   rating: 6  small thumbs up

    • #8.7   quat

      And in Seattle, a7, they do indeed go through your trash, so you had best get over it or never come here. We have a nice, hefty fine to pay if we don’t sort out the recycles from the trash, and you know what? Most of us think it’s an excellent idea.

      Jul 9, 2012 at 8:46 pm   rating: 0  small thumbs up

  • #9   Dewprisms

    Apparently The Rules Of Grammar Don’t Apply To Note Writer Either!

    But We All Have Our Faults I Guess. But Not Recycling Is Just Super Bad, Okay?

    Jul 3, 2012 at 10:53 pm   rating: 4  small thumbs up

  • #10   xMariex

    We finally got recycling pick-up here but the only problem is the picky rules. I know someone is going to call me a heinous bitch for this (because this is the internet and people have no problem calling others names for having a difference of opinion) but it does deter us from recycling sometimes. We don’t have to really sort the recycling into “types” but they want us to remove all labels and wash them, etc… and when you have several cans full of stuff like refried beans and several 2-liter bottles… and it’s been a long day of cleaning… you sort of go “screw it” and toss them in the garbage since you know the recycling people won’t pick them up unless they’re all de-labeled and clean and such. I would have no problem with them just using some of my tax money and giving some people that job at the recycling center. There, I created jobs for some Americans. Go me. :P

    Heck, I’m just being honest about how they deter us from recycling by making what should be a simple act more difficult. But then, some of the trash companies are just as bad about rules for your garbage *roles eyes*

    Jul 4, 2012 at 3:35 am   rating: 15  small thumbs up

    • #10.1   The Elf

      I hear ya! When we moved, I had piles and piles of paper trash. I broke down the boxes and stacked them up to about waist high. I filled the recycling bin with newspaper, then filled up two more gigantic clear plastic bags with it. Then I put it all out for pickup. When I got home from work, the stack of boxes and the plastic bags of newspaper were still there, complete with a note detailing that recycling placed outside of the bin would NOT be picked up.

      I left it there for regular trash pickup the next day. It disappeared.

      Jul 5, 2012 at 7:19 am   rating: 6  small thumbs up

    • #10.2   Beth Terry

      I don’t know why they wouldn’t take the boxes, but one reason for them not to take the paper in the plastic bags would be the plastic bags. They jam up the sorting machines and are a real hassle. And no, they most likely can’t just take the material out of the bags and discard the bags because the stuff goes by on belts very fast and in most systems is sorted by machines. People are just there to remove anything obviously dangerous or non-recyclable.

      Jul 5, 2012 at 7:57 pm   rating: 2  small thumbs up

    • #10.3   Dr.Chalkwitheringlicktacklefeff

      They’re pretty good in my area. Their only rules are that we have to take the lids off yoghurt pots and no plastic bags. Aside from that, it’s all good. In fact, since recycling collection was introduced, I’ve discovered that the vast majority of my waste is recyclable, and my regular trash bin is rarely even a quarter full by the time they come to collect it.

      Jul 6, 2012 at 5:57 am   rating: 2  small thumbs up

    • #10.4   The Elf

      I don’t buy it, Beth. It was a 50-gal clear plastic bag obviously filled with nothing but newspaper. Tear the bag open, dump the paper. It would take about as much effort as dumping the bin, and they could do it curbside where there wasn’t pressure.

      Well, their loss. I certainly wasn’t going to keep two huge bags of newspaper around for the next week.

      Jul 6, 2012 at 8:27 am   rating: 3  small thumbs up

    • #10.5   Me

      My county makes it as easy as possible: no need to wash or sort, and if you’re not sure if something is recyclable, throw it in and they’ll figure it out. I think local governments should make it easier, not harder, to recycle.

      Jul 8, 2012 at 11:51 am   rating: 6  small thumbs up

  • #11   8lackie

    Where I live. Nothing, and I mean absolutely nothing is recycled.

    Jul 4, 2012 at 4:26 am   rating: 0  small thumbs up

  • #12   Adriana

    Whenever anyone uses “society” as justification for a rule, I immediately lose interest. “Society” just means “I don’t have any good reason to believe what I do, but somehow the collective actions of others should compel you to do this anyway.” You always know you’re on the receiving end of a bullshit argument when a person appeals to society to control how you have sex, what you put into your body, where you go, what you say, what you watch, and what you do. Now, if your argument is that it’s good for the environment, preserves resources, helps the economy, prevents others from having to do it to avoid government penalties, then hey, at least that’s a reason. “Society” is not a reason.

    Jul 4, 2012 at 7:24 am   rating: 9  small thumbs up

    • #12.1   DrChalkwitheringlicktacklefeff

      I didn’t know recycling was a rule of society either. I mean; do most people recycle? I think most people probably don’t bother (which is a shame), so it would then seem that not recyling is the societal norm.

      Jul 5, 2012 at 5:56 am   rating: 4  small thumbs up

    • #12.2   The Elf

      It’s the law in many locales, plus workplace policy.

      But I’m totally with Adriana that “society” is a pretty poor reason to do (or not do) something.

      Jul 5, 2012 at 7:13 am   rating: 1  small thumbs up

    • #12.3   Dr.Chalkwitheringlicktacklefeff

      It’s also the law to obey the speed limit; that doesn’t make it a societal norm. Most people speed at least a little bit.

      Jul 6, 2012 at 5:50 am   rating: 4  small thumbs up

  • #13   Dane Zeller

    So, would it be correct to put some note paper in that big blue bin? Like small crumpled up scraps of paper with black magic marker writing on them? Or, should they go in the trash?

    Jul 4, 2012 at 8:36 am   rating: 7  small thumbs up

    • #13.1   nick17

      Sounds recyclable to me. It really does vary from town to town. Some places only recycle newsprint, while others will take any kind of paper. Check with whoever picks up your bin, they should be able to give you a definitive list of what they take and don’t take.

      Jul 9, 2012 at 7:35 am   rating: 1  small thumbs up

  • #14   Courteny

    I took the office recycling in, because in Saskatchewan you get your money back for recycling (although you pay environmental charges on them anyways), and the assholes in the office threw their garbage in the recycling bins. You’d think that blue bins means recycling, but in an engineering firm, they must be colour blind or forget that admin take the recyclables in only to have to pick out the garbage and be embarrassed that there would be garbage with the recycables whilst 7 other lanes can see this clear taboo. Not to mention how disgusting this truly is.

    Jul 4, 2012 at 9:16 am   rating: 6  small thumbs up

    • #14.1   DrChalkwitheringlicktacklefeff

      Why would you think that blue bins means recycling? Is that like how red means danger and orchids represent death? Because I’ve never heard of this convention of blue = recycling. Green, maybe.

      Jul 5, 2012 at 5:57 am   rating: 5  small thumbs up

    • #14.2   The Elf

      I don’t know how the color got to be associated, but all the recycling bins at work and at home (issued by two entirely different governmental organizations) are both the same shade of cobalt.

      Jul 5, 2012 at 7:11 am   rating: 6  small thumbs up

    • #14.3   Beth Terry

      Different cities have different colored recycle bins. Ours is gray.

      Jul 5, 2012 at 7:59 pm   rating: 2  small thumbs up

    • #14.4   Dr.Chalkwitheringlicktacklefeff

      Yeah, they’re grey here too. But that’s only because our regular bins have been green for decades so green was already taken. We have brown for garden waste.

      Jul 6, 2012 at 5:49 am   rating: 1  small thumbs up

    • #14.5   Kathy

      Blue means recycling in my area, both at work and at home.

      Jul 8, 2012 at 9:18 am   rating: 0  small thumbs up

  • #15   Polly

    These “engineers” who keep tossing any old gooey crap in the recycling bins – is “engineers” code for “men”?

    Jul 4, 2012 at 10:29 am   rating: 10  small thumbs up

  • #16   DrChalkwitheringlicktacklefeff

    No trash? But…recyclables are a sub-set of trash!

    Jul 5, 2012 at 5:49 am   rating: 1  small thumbs up

  • #17   The Elf

    Food cart pod?

    My brain came to a crashing halt on that one. Do they mean shopping cart corral?

    The mental image is from Spinal Tap, when they are in the cocoons and the Derek Smalls gets stuck. Only it’s a shopping cart, not a bassist.

    Jul 5, 2012 at 6:54 am   rating: 5  small thumbs up

    • #17.1   The Elf

      Okay, Google has revealed that these are actually refers to street food. The “pod” part refers to collection of them. I’m not clear on whether the location is fixed and the food truck business that gather there becomes the pod or if it is the businesses that bundle together into a pod. Or both?

      ‘Round here we just call them “food trucks”.

      Jul 5, 2012 at 7:08 am   rating: 1  small thumbs up

    • #17.2   Dr.Chalkwitheringlicktacklefeff

      Maybe it means “pod” as in a group of dolphins. That sounds like the kind of romantic, hippy imagery that would appeal to a Portland hipster. They could still be nomadic.

      Round these parts you’d never see two food trucks in the same location; it’s a world of cut-throat competition. Literally – as most of them are run by organised crime. Especially ice cream trucks; which I find to be a jarring juxtaposition of ideas.

      Jul 6, 2012 at 5:59 am   rating: 7  small thumbs up

    • #17.3   The Elf

      Now I’m picturing Food Trucks traveling in “pods” through the ocean, singing to one another. Sometimes you’ll find one on its’ side on the beach, windows open and food baking in the sun.

      Jul 6, 2012 at 1:17 pm   rating: 8  small thumbs up

    • #17.4   Noelegy

      You can buy relaxing CDs of their gentle, haunting music!

      Jul 6, 2012 at 2:02 pm   rating: 6  small thumbs up

    • #17.5   nick17

      In Portland, we love our food trucks so much that we have dedicated lots that are rented out just for food trucks, and they all seem to cooperate and encourage each other. Generally there’s a section of seating and tables that are open to anyone buying food from one of the surrounding carts. It’s pretty friggin awesome, if you ask me. :)

      Jul 9, 2012 at 7:39 am   rating: 2  small thumbs up

  • #18   WB

    At Portland’s Foot Traffic Flat Marathon and Half yesterday, the event even had a recycling monitor volunteer at the finish line trash cans helping you determine which of the 3 cans in which to pitch your trash. Really, when you are brain-fried after 13.1 or 26.2 miles, you need the help.

    Jul 5, 2012 at 11:41 am   rating: 3  small thumbs up

  • #19   Willy Wonky

    If I saw that note, I’d go out of my way to throw trash in the can.

    Jul 5, 2012 at 5:30 pm   rating: 1  small thumbs up

    • #19.1   nick17

      That’s because you’re an asshole.

      Jul 9, 2012 at 7:41 am   rating: 3  small thumbs up

  • #20   Beth Terry

    It would be awesome if every citizen took a little field trip to their local recycling facility to see how it operates. That would explain a lot about why certain cities have certain requirements. I’ve been to recycling centers in Oakland and San Francisco, and only afterwards did I understand why I couldn’t just toss all my plastics into the bin and why plastic bags are not allowed.

    BTW, my husband is the recycling czar at his job, and he can never understand why there is always one aluminum can in the compost bin despite all the many signs he puts up. I keep telling him someone is f.ucking with him, but he doesn’t get it.

    Jul 5, 2012 at 8:03 pm   rating: 5  small thumbs up

    • #20.1   The Elf

      It’s probably *because* of all the signs he has put up.

      Jul 6, 2012 at 8:29 am   rating: 2  small thumbs up

    • #20.2   nick17

      The Elf is right. I used to have a recycling bin at my desk, and the (mostly) lovely police officers I work with would (mostly) use it only for recyclables. There were always a few who would come to my desk, make a point of getting my attention and showing me that they were either putting trash in my recycling bin, or a soda can in my trash can. Assholes. Of course, those are the ones whose paperwork mysteriously got lost sometimes, somewhere between my printer and their in-box.

      Jul 9, 2012 at 7:44 am   rating: 5  small thumbs up

    • #20.3   nick17

      Ooops, forgot my original thought, which was that I had a note on each bin to indicate which was which, and once I removed the notes and hid the recycling bin under my desk, the cops quit with their oh-so-clever games.

      Jul 9, 2012 at 7:47 am   rating: 1  small thumbs up

  • #21   Lis

    After reading all these posts, I think I am going to kiss my recycling collectors! We don’t have to sort, for some time now they take ALL plastics 1-7, including lids, AND we can put plastic bags in there — either a handful of them or, as we like to do, collect recycling in a plastic bag, then take it out when it’s full (several times a week) to the blue bins which are picked up once a week. They make recycling almost effortless!

    Jul 5, 2012 at 10:04 pm   rating: 10  small thumbs up

    • #21.1   H for Toy

      Me too, Lis. All they ask around here is that you rinse out any large chunks of food, and keep paper separate from everything else. I will no longer complain when the truck wakes me up at 5:30am. They obviously make the rest of my life easier!

      Jul 6, 2012 at 6:32 am   rating: 3  small thumbs up

    • #21.2   Noelegy

      Now I see how fortunate I really am! We throw all of our recyclables in one big green bin. We wash the food out of bottles or cans, out of courtesy, but I’m not sure it’s required. Labels don’t have to be removed. Glass, cardboard, and metal all goes in the same bin.

      Jul 6, 2012 at 2:04 pm   rating: 4  small thumbs up

    • #21.3   Noelegy

      *and plastics.

      Jul 6, 2012 at 2:05 pm   rating: 0  small thumbs up

  • #22   Mawwd

    All I gotta ask is: what is so goddamn hard about not putting trash in the recycling bin? And once presented with a sign asking people to do a simple task, why do some suddenly turn into assholes that absolutely MUST keep doing the wrong thing? I mean, people like that must realize that they’re inconveniencing others, right? I mean, what if someone else gets fined because of that trash? What if to not get fined someone else has to clean up after the asshole? What about the fact that if nobody does, the recycling guy has to deal with it? If the recycling guy takes it and refuses to deal with it, it fucks up the recycling plant? I mean seriously. Just be a decent person and put your trash in the TRASH and recyclables in the RECYCLABLES and don’t make such a show about being a dickwad. It takes 1 second to recognize the correct bin, and over that some people want to throw a little fit and make sure to put their nasty trash where other people have to pick it up. Pathetic.

    Jul 24, 2012 at 4:11 pm   rating: 2  small thumbs up


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