I grew up recycling. In the late 80’s when I was a teenager, I lived in a small town which boasted (for several years) the highest recycling rate per capita in the U.S. That was back in the day when recycling was way more work than it is now; we had to remove paper labels from cans and pick those ridiculous plastic windows out of envelopes.
For the next 23 years I lived in towns where recycling is mandatory. A stray tin can in your trash would result in a $10 fine and the humiliation of being told you could only bring your trash in clear plastic bags from that day forward.
Times have changed and recycling is easier than ever. Times have changed and I live in an area that hasn’t made recycling mandatory. Yet.
When I first moved to Downeast Maine, I asked about recycling facilities. Some folks told me there was “no such thing” here. Others knew there was “something like that somewhere” and one woman said with a smile, “You don’t have to recycle here. Why bother?”
As I unpacked cardboard boxes with my posessions wrapped carefully in newspaper, I felt at a loss. What was I supposed to do with all this very recyclable stuff? I literally shuddered at the thought of a small mountain of paper and cardboard piled high, waiting for curbside pick up.
Friends and relatives called to see how the settling in process was going and I ranted incessantly about the supposed lack of recycling facilities in the area. It was inconcievable to me, after 23 years of recycling, that I would just toss a tin can or magazine in the kitchen trash can. My friends and family understood; they have been recycling just as long as I have.
On the phone with my sister, I asked, “How am I supposed to do this? I’m just supposed to throw this newspaper in the trash?”
And that is exactly what I did. Bag after bag of junk mail, newspapers, magazines, tin cans, milk jugs and cardboard went curbside for pick up. It went against everything I stood for, against everything I had been taught.
“Ridiculous,” I thought.
“This is outrageous,” I ranted, week after week.
I was a single person dragging an average of four bags of trash to the curb every week.
I settled in to my new home and prepared to pick up the recycling banner. If there wasn’t a facility, I would start one.
If you don’t know me, let me tell you one thing: when I get on a tear it’s not a pretty sight.
As it turns out, I didn’t have to start a recycling facility. After all my irritation, frustration and annoyance, I discovered a recycling center two miles from my house. I am back to sorting my recyclables and not even complaining about having to scrub out the peanut butter jars. I’m also happily carrying out less than a bag of trash a week. Maybe not perfect but a heck of a lot better than four bags a week.
Unfortunately it appears that very few people here “bother” to recycle. In these times when global warming and carbon footprint are household words (take a quiz to measure your carbon footprint here),
I can’t imagine why people wouldn’t recycle. And I will never understand a “why bother” attitude.
Take a look around, you non-recyclers, the planet is in trouble and it’s your duty to help turn things around…. start today.