Recycling Blues — 12 Comments

  1. Not sure where the recycled stuff goes but apparently the current recession has an impact even on that.

    Putting off the purchase of a big flat-screen TV? You’re not alone. Chana Joffe-Walt of KPLU says the decline in sales is having an unexpected — and unwelcome — effect on recycling.

  2. I think a good solution will ultimately be a market-based solution. I know the maintenance guy at one of the NHL ice rinks in Canada and he voluntarily contacted a cardboard recycler and the recycler set up a big bin out back. That thing fills up quick! I think they send the company a cheque for a few hundred dollars a month. It’s not big money, but the company doesn’t pay to have the garbage removed – someone pays them! I think that is why bottle depots are great – if I am too lazy to return my bottle, someone else ultimately will (hobos picking up bottles on the side of the road for example or bottle drives to help pay for kids’ sports programs).

    What I want to know is… where does all the recycled stuff go? I know where bottles and cans go. It should be cost-advantageous for companies to use recycled stuff (and to recycle stuff) and then we would see a huge shift to this happening more.

  3. Good point. I would see this as a both, then, not an either/or: We need to look at both individual contribution/responsibility and systems contribution/responsibility. There are at least two options here: Offer various containers for recyclable/compost/trash (this creates the compliance problem) OR the stadium, for example, could be responsible for sorting the trash into recyclables & compost and everything else. I think you might be suggesting the later solution, which is probably a more reliable solution but would cost the stadium and thus they try to get people to do their work for them. (There are some other issues, too, like recyclables becoming contaminated but that might be a process issue that can be resolved).

  4. Ah, but there’s the problem – I’ve personally seem the Sports Gestapo at the door make people throw out an apple because they are not allowed to bring “outside food” into the arena. Ultimately the responsibility should be on the stadium, if they are setting the rules. Plastic cups, plastic forks, etc. It’s the only choice people have when they attend a public event.

  5. The biggest contributors to the waste problem are not individuals – they are businesses in general. It is politically correct to brow-beat individual tax payers into recycling one pop can or call them lazy, but the fact is that one sports stadium after an NHL or NBA game will produce more waste than one person could create in a lifetime. Sure, every little bit helps, but businesses and places of business (I’m talking big places, like downtown office buildings and sports stadiums) would need to start overhauling their system in a huge way.

  6. I just attended a lecture by Paul Ehrlich on The Dominant Animal – how us humans are so smart that we’ve become the dominant species yet are so dumb that we’re destroying the ecosystem that’s sustaining our lives. All this keeps reminding me of the story of frog in water that is being slowly heated: It doesn’t notice that the water is getting too hot until it is too late!

    I find it absolutely mind-boggling how people are so resistant to recycling! Although, maybe it’s because it reminds them of all the waste we’re creating… It’s a visible reminder that we’ll have to change our behavior in order to save our life-support system.

  7. AAAARGH!! Rachel! I started a recycling effort in my office, where I got some bins and took the contents home once a week with me, in my car. People didn’t rinse the bottles, so the bags leaked onto my car seats. I put a very nice note on the bins asking people to rinse, and I got TWO snarky anonymous notes back!! One of them, someone went to a lot of trouble to type up in the form of a personals ad from “car seat covers”. It was sarcastic with undercurrents of vitriol. I had no idea what engendered such bitterness from this anonymous person (twice!), but at least on the second occasion I burst into tears, I was so upset.

    Separately, even though the bins were only steps away from some people’s desks, those people would still toss their cans and newspapers into their trash cans.

    P’ED me off.

  8. Ahhh. You live in San Francisco. I used to live there. Yes, I wouldn’t be surprised if I knew the folks greening the CL Foundation Boot Camp. Its crazy that even in SAN FRANCISCO you need to tell people what goes where. I understand it in places where they don’t even have curbside recycling that the concept would be novel but you have curbside COMPOST in SF.

    I worked the We the Planet festivals and concerts in the early 2000s. I really love how the west coast sets the standard for sustainability in other places around the world. And the sustainable culture is spreading. My republican bosslady’s husband started reusing plastic (I know, I know, he should use glass–one step at a time) juice bottles for their daughter’s lunches instead of those throw away boxes. They are pretty mainstream and they’re getting the message.

    So, you know, things change. Slowly.

  9. Maybe we can announce that the new recycling program is really an intelligence test…

    Your comment reminds me of the people stationed next to the bins at the Craigslist Foundation Boot Camp. I couldn’t believe that they actually needed people to tell people what goes where despite the signage that so obviously explained it all… Sigh. I wonder if this is as bad in Europe…

  10. I used to work big eco-events. We had to STAFF the recycling bins with volunteers. I’ve also BEEN one of those volunteers and you have to be a NAZI. People will look straight at the (large and well placed signage) and they put stuff in the wrong place.

    So apparently it is hard, very hard.

    On the bright side, if you can figure out how to recycle correctly, you can be rest assured that you are more intelligent than most Americans.

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