At the end of the work day, when I leave, the stroll takes me past one person's office where the trash can is left out for the custodial staff to handle. If the staff hasn't gotten to it just then, I usually notice a plastic drink bottle there (PETE #1, usually). So what does 3CM the loser do? Well, as if you can't guess, if no one is looking, he quickly reaches in and plunks the bottle out, and takes it to the recycling container for plastic bottles in the common area.
Fitting opener, since we just passed the 40th anniversary of Earth Day. Yet the repeatedly tossed PETE bottle is symptomatic of how too many of us carelessly squander the Earth's resources, illustrated on a much bigger scale in terms of plastic in the recently discovered North Atlantic Garbage Patch (also diaried on DK here and here. More pointless plastic-themed musings below the flip....
In fact, none of us have to see pictures of either the North Atlantic or Great Pacific Garbage Patches to see how we're trashing the planet and ruining it for all the other species. You probably see single random plastic bottles on the street, in parks or other public spaces every day. I got a harsh reminder of this a while back when I was waiting to catch the bus one day. A few feet from the curb was a scattered slew of plastic bottles. In my younger days, I might have been motivated to get back to that area with work gloves and a trash bag, and pick up the bottles to take to the recycling center. But of course, I didn't go back and clean it up. (I was waiting to take the bus at the time.)
The same thing happens at my once-a-week trip to the gym, when I see a trash can with a number (varies from week to week) of bottles there. If I can (and again, when no one is looking), I'll retrieve as many as I can carry and get them to the recycling center. You get the idea.
Not everyone is as nerdly/loserly about recycling as self, as illustrated by comments in a column last April by the Post-Dispatch's Debra D. Bass, about why people don't recycle:
"I have another friend who doesn't recycle because it seems too complicated. She said that she's afraid of doing it wrong so she doesn't bother. Another simply said, recycling is boring."
The other, unstated reason, illustrated by all those bottles on the streets, is that people who toss those bottles are lazy. One line in this NYT article this past Earth Day has this tiny statistical nugget about recycling rates of plastic bottles by Americans:
"....Keep America Beautiful, an antilittering nonprofit organization, will introduce 'dream machines,' recycling kiosks it is introducing with PepsiCo. The machines are meant to increase the recycling rates for beverage containers, which is estimated at about 36 percent nationwide."
Sindya Bhanoo has this NYT blog post with conflicting stats over the percentage of recycling plastic bottles:
"[Annie Leonard] goes on to say that 80 percent of plastic bottles end up in landfills or are burned in incinerators.
But the International Bottled Water Association, using different statistics, says that water bottles are the nation's most recycled plastic container, with a 30.9 percent recycling rate."
Even if you accept the IBWA's value, that means that 69.1% of plastic bottles don't get recycled. Either way, 69.1% or 80%, a majority of plastic bottles get trashed. That's bad no matter which value you go with.
When I try to save what little I can, it can feel downright dispiriting to realize that it doesn't make a huge difference and I'm not saving it all. Of course, every little bit helps, which is why one does it. But it doesn't always work out, like from this local report last April, when the tanking economy shrank demand for recyclables. People still take the stuff in, to be cure, as when I go, just about once a month, like Bass, to unload recyclables, there's plenty of plastic in the big cardboard boxes to hold them, not to mention glass bottles (sorted by color), paper, aluminum cans, and steel cans. One wonders what would happen if the US actually recycled a majority of plastic. We're not at all like the situation in Denmark, as exemplified by a line from that recent article on trash incineration in Denmark, after all the recyclables have been taken out for recycling, of course:
"In Denmark, local governments run trash collection as well as the incinerators and recycling centers, and laws and financial incentives ensure that recyclable materials are not burned. (In the United States most waste-to-energy plants are private ventures.) Communities may drop recyclable waste at recycling centers free of charge, but must pay to have garbage incinerated.
At Vestforbraending, trucks stop on scales for weighing and payment before dumping their contents. The trash is randomly searched for recyclable material, with heavy fines for offenders."
Never gonna happen here, right?
Anyway, it's the Saturday night after Earth Day, and you know the drill (well, the regulars among you do), namely time for your loser stories of the week below.....