Sometime next summer many of us will get wheeled recycling carts, similar in style to the carts we now use for garbage but colored blue. Whether we will all get them will depend on whether people will have to pay an extra buck a week on their utility bills for six months, or whether the city will find the money for the carts the way magicians find rabbits.
That’s a meaningless difference, of course, it’s all money out of the same pocket, but some folks have said they will stomp their feet and stop recycling if the city doesn’t hide the cost of the carts in some other part of the budget. That’s really all anyone has to know about how fragile recycling programs are in this country.
We currently recycle only about 30 percent of our waste, which for the town that has always led the state in recycling is pretty pathetic. That means that there is enormous tonnage that we still pay to have hauled to someplace where the people have no political influence and buried. It is hoped that the new carts, which are hoisted and emptied by a mechanism on a truck, will increase the amount recycled by making the whole process easier.
Yes, it’s already pretty easy. You simply haul some ratty old bins that are held together solely with duct tape out to the curb so the wind can blow newspaper ads all over the neighborhood and young raccoons can play with the shiny tin cans. The new carts are an improvement. They roll easily and have lids so things stay inside, creatures stay outside, and your neighbors will no longer be sure how much booze you drink.
They also speed the collection process and cut down on Resource Management’s workman’s compensation costs, which means that we will be able to keep our ridiculously low pickup costs. The real question is whether the combination of not having to sort stuff, curbside pickup, and the fancy carts will have finally made recycling easy enough that the persnickety public will do it.
Everybody knows that recycling saves energy, water, and money, they just don’t seem to care. Every ton of paper recycled, for example, saves 17 trees, and the energy saved by recycling just one aluminum can could run your TV for three hours.
Throwing things away is a modern perversion. From the beginning of civilization to modern times, everything that possibly could be reused was reused, over and over again. It has only been in very recent times, especially after WWII, that we’ve become a throw it away, use it up society.
Unfortunately, those times are over. Not only can we no longer afford to bury our garbage, we actually need to use it to make more stuff. We need to recycle the plastics, the metals, and everything we used to discard, even the water we drink.
That’s right, much of the country, especially the west, will soon need to drink their sewage water after it has been purified. New membranes have lowered the cost by 75 percent, and a new biotech membrane using protein water channels called aquaporins will soon revolutionize the process.
Well, next to that curbside recycling sounds pretty pleasant, doesn’t it? And we have now made it exactly as easy to put something in the recycling bin as it is to put it in the garbage. What possible reason could someone have for not recycling every possible thing that can be, that it’s easier to lift a green lid than a blue one?
If we need to run some sort of campaign before the carts get here we should start now because if folks still refuse to recycle the only alternative is to pass yet another law, and we already have way too many of those.