Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Hope and the Ubiquity of Recycling

I remember radio ads opposing bottle deposits when I lived in Michigan, back in the late 1970s. "What's next?" said the snide voice, "You'll need a container to keep your empty bottles in. Then you'll need something for your mayonaise jars, and another one for your gum wrappers, and another for your sandwich bags. Where will it end?"
Where indeed? The deposit law passed and the world didn't end. The number of broken bottles in my neighborhood went to nearly zero (...admittedly I was living in a trailer park behind a booze store... .) The aweful spector of having to have separate containers for every kind of waste came not to pass. The sceptics were wrong.
I thought about that in trying to address this week's Change the World Wednesday Challenge:
"This week, find someone that doesn't recycle and help them get started. Perhaps a friend or neighbor doesn't know how ... so teach them. Maybe a family member doesn't know where to start ... so show them how easy is it to set something up. Look outside of your home and help someone else begin a recycling program."
Man, I was stumped!
I don't know anyone who doesn't recycle. Some of my friends and associates are more careful than others, but that's true in everything from driving cars to raising kids. Maybe therre are a few people so self-important that they don't take the time to toss their pop can in the "cans" bin, but these are few and far between, and their loutish behaviour is pretty much despised.
I thought about the places I went: stores, other businesses, libraries. All of them have recycling containers, perhaps because the cost of hauling recycling is a lot less than that of hauling waste, perhaps because they wish to attract the increasing number of customers who pay attention to green issues.
Either way, this evidence suggests that we have crossed a threshold: green is mainstream.
Environmental sceptics continue to decry the alleged high costs of fixing our planet. No doubt things can be done badly: there is no idea so great that it can't be screwed up in application.
But the history of the humble recycling container suggests that the sceptics are wrong.

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