I was walking around town in a bad mood, and decided to root around in a dumpster belonging to one of those giant tech companies.
Going through dumpsters is quite therapeutic- the feeling of indifference towards other people spotting you, whether they’re employees, security guards, or even cops.
All of the above traveled down the alley while I was digging around, but I just didn’t care. Surprisingly, none of them seemed to either.
When you’re in the zone, everyone around you must think you’re either super confident or just crazy…both of which result in you being left alone.
The usual self-defeating thoughts began clogging my mind- Why bother? Who cares? What’s the point? Why would anyone listen to me anyway?
That’s why this website has slowed down so much- is it illegal to publicize my findings? If I posted videos of my trash picking adventures, am I incriminating myself? I feel like I’ve posed this question to so many people, and it’s hard to decide what the answer really is.
I’ve concluded that if the trash is on the street, it’s fair game, but if it’s in a dumpster on private property it’s a problem.
Whatever the case may be, this particular scenario wasn’t that exciting anyway. What I found was that they had a recycling dumpster in place, and they paid their city medallion fees… so essentially they were following the rules. Good job.
I was surprised. The city probably hires someone to walk around checking dumpsters to see if they paid their annual fees…or it sure looks that way. Businesses in Center City seem to have gotten their act together and have been coughing up the fees.
As I rooted through the trash dumpster, I stuffed a bunch of bubble mailers and shiny little metal boxes into my coat. Hooray for free shipping supplies and… shiny little metal boxes that I don’t have a use for but they looked cool at the time. Of course there were plenty of recyclable materials to be found there as well.
At first I got mad, and then I reminded myself that a shocking percentage of “recyclable” materials we put to the curb aren’t recycled anyway. I don’t call it a recycling bin anymore- it’s simply a blue bin.
Further, even if their compliance was somehow perfect, it’s not going to solve the greater issues on its own. Recycling will not save us all by itself- we need to do more.
If it’s cheaper to extract raw materials instead of recycling them, extraction will occur. Simple as that.
Although painfully utopian, wouldn’t it be great if our recycling end markets were always reliable and abundant?
With recycling, we’re putting our destiny into other people’s hands, which we all know is a fool’s game.
Plastics are unquestionably the biggest part of the issue.
How much information is out there now about our plastic problem? Here’s a few examples:
Charles Moore: Seas of Plastic
Plastic Ocean by Charles Moore
Toxic: Garbage Island
Then you have losers like the American Chemistry Council coming up with misdirection campaigns like “Don’t Be Trashy- Recycle” , or promoting “energy recovery” as a solution for waste diversion. Anything to divert attention from the real problem.
If all of you filthy misguided cretins placed everything in the right containers, we’d have no issues whatsoever… seriously?
When people ask me what I do and I mention anything about sustainability, a common response is “I recycle at home- I can’t believe how much of our stuff is recyclable”. It’s definitely time to get to the next level.
It’s going to have to be a combination of composting, buying smarter, buying less and driving less, knowing more. Although it seems complicated, policies incorporating Extended Producer Responsibility need to gain a lot more traction (i.e. responsibility of expired products is reverted back to the producers).
The answer isn’t simple by any means… but the next step is to realize that everyone needs to make more of an effort. We’re made to feel good for simple actions such as recycling, which is fine… but now it’s time for everyone to advance to the next stage of feel-good responsibility.
Start composting at home. Study the companies that produce the stuff you buy. Donate more stuff- there’s someone looking for practically everything you may have.
Learn more about the horrific effects of climate change and see how you can chip away at it. Don’t be duped by “waste-to-energy” facilities, which are simply incinerators in a pathetic costume. Be curious.
We can be patiently impatient about social and environmental issues, or better yet impatiently patient towards what we can do to improve our surroundings starting today.