June 2017 Archives

Have you tried to recycle a large item lately?

I'm not talking about throwing a few empty bottles into the recycling bin. I'm not talking about turning in a bag full of cans for a buck or two. I'm not talking about taking waste oil to the local auto parts store. No sir - those are all no-brainers and relatively easy to do.

I'm talking about visiting a "recycler" - the kind of place that deals with scrap metal, junked cars, old wire, and whatnot. If you haven't had such an opportunity, you'll be in for a treat when you do.

"Steve, how could it be that bad," you ask? By now you should know that such questions are rhetorical and unnecessary. :-)

It all started when I purchased some industrial-size electrical wire from a local sound company. I was faced with needing 100+ feet of heavy-duty 4/4 SOOW cable (4 conductor, 4 gauge). New wire in that size is *expensive* - like $4-$5/foot. I was looking for lower-cost options and located some from the local sound company. They were willing to sell some older, used cable in that size for a greatly reduced price.

We made a deal, and I "threw" the 115-pounds of cable into my car and headed home to terminate it to my 480-volt, 3-phase, 50-amp Hubbell connectors. By the way - I owe a huge round of thanks to my pal Jed for the hook-up on the connectors and numerous other electrical items. Thanks, Jed!!!!!!

Upon arrival to my house, I began to prep the wire, and quickly discovered that the wire's insulation/jacketing was bad. It crumbled and fell apart as I tried to work with it. If there's one thing you don't want, it's bare wire touching other bare wire in a 240-volt "extension cord."

The sound company was *excellent* to deal with - I told them what happened, and they immediately refunded my money, apologized profusely, and then told me to keep the wire/recycle it/whatever. I figured I would do the right thing and take it to a recycling plant, cash in, and everyone would win.

My first attempt to recycle the wire at Recycler "A" came to an end after I grew tired of sitting in line (in my car) for 35-minutes and not moving one car-length closer to the recycling center. There were at least 7-8 semi trailers in front of me the entire time, with no sign of any movement.

My second attempt to recycle the wire was thwarted as Recycler "B" was closed by 3:45pm on a Thursday afternoon.

My third attempt involved yet a different recycler, "All Metal Recycling".

I arrived to the recycling plant and discovered no signage, no instructions, and no apparent sense of any workflow/traffic flow. So, after some wandering around, I located an "office" (which wasn't marked) and made my way inside.

Behind about 3" of solid glass with a small slot at the bottom of the glass for which to pass papers through, sat a guy who was on the phone with someone. I stood there for a few minutes; he looked over with a confused expression.

I asked, "Hi - any idea where I go to drop-off some copper wire for recycling?"

He said, "We just closed."

I looked at my watch - it was 3:50pm. Apparently recyclers rise with the chickens and hit the hay with the roosters. Ugh.

I said, "Ok, no problem."

"Take the wire over to that building there," he said, pointing at a metal building on one of his security monitor screens.

I tried to look for some familiar points of reference so that I could find the building. I eventually made it to the front of the building, which had a single door and a step or two that went down into the building. Inside the building it was dark and incredibly dirty/disorganized looking.

There was another guy there, and it was pretty obvious that he and I weren't going to converse too much. He mumbled something and pointed at a cement-like platform in the middle of the floor. I set the 100-ish pounds of wire on the platform, and then he studied something on a computer screen. The "computer" resembled a TRS-80 from the mid 1980s.

He mumbled something else and I couldn't understand him. We looked at each other for a bit. I said, "Sorry - I didn't understand?"

He mumbled again and made a "square" gesture with his hands. I was guessing he needed my ID. So, I handed him my drivers license. He took it and "scanned" it into the TRS-80, which took a minute or two to process before my info came onto the screen.

He handed my license back, along with a "receipt" of sorts that showed I had turned-in "59.7lbs of #2 industrial cable."

Um... wrong on both accounts, but I didn't want to argue. I figured I should take that receipt back to the office, so I went back into the office. The same guy from behind the glass was still on the phone. I slid the receipt through the glass slot.

Without looking, he took the slip and did a few things on his "computer" which appeared to be a slightly newer TRS-80. After a minute or two, he slid another slip of paper under the glass. It was another receipt.

I looked at the receipt, and it had my name and a "transaction" list, along with a barcode. I looked rather confused, and he pointed to an ATM in the far corner of the little entry area. I took the slip over to the ATM, and scanned the receipt's bar code.

The machine then spit out $14.

I looked at my receipt, and it said: "59.7lbs wire = $16.93. ATM fee $2.00. Rounding fee $0.93. Total paid $14.00"

Ha! So... besides being incredibly confusing and difficult to work with, the recycler charges to give you money and keeps any change. Super awesome.

Granted, the $14 was free to me, but wowser. There has to be a better system/way, right? Some super basic signage would help, and how about not gouging for a non-existent ATM surcharge? (ATMs charge you a fee because the network on which they communicate (typically Cirrus) charges banks a transaction fee. This machine didn't need any network to communicate - it just read the barcode and dispensed money)

Ugh. It's a wonder people recycle any large items.

Rant #2 - brief:

Why is it that the USPS happily delivers mail to my PO Box that's addressed to "Susan Jones" and "Thomas Radcliffe" (the addresses don't include, "or current resident" - these are things like bank statements, credit card offers, and so on), but when a piece of mail arrives for "Steve Litscher, 608 Sound and Light" they leave a note in my PO Box that says, "Holding mail for you because 608 Sound and Light isn't listed on your PO Box application. Please see a clerk."

Ugh. Ugh. Ugh. Ugh. Ugh.

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This page is an archive of entries from June 2017 listed from newest to oldest.

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