Sunday, October 26, 2008

Why Recycle At Home And Not When You Are Out

I took my daughters to the park today as it was a nice day out and they had a bit of energy that needed sapping.  AS they ran around on the play area I sat and watched people going by, something I must admit I enjoy doing form time to time.  Now i don't know if it was my heightened awareness due to this project, or a jackpot time to be there, but i was fairly shocked at what I noticed.

All around me people were throwing plastic water bottles and soda bottles into the garbage.  I'm not naive, I recognize that this happens all the time pretty much everywhere, but what shocked me was who was doing it.  I'm the first to say that you can't judge people by how they look but when the guy with the "Save the Rainforest" and the lady with the "Recycle" shirt (I kid you not and they were not together) are throwing plastic in the trash, it makes you think.

I'm going to go out on a limb and say that these two, among others (including a few people i know personally) would have recycled their bottles had there been a bin or had they been at home where a bin is accessible.  And yet, they didn't seem to think twice about throwing their bottles away.  Why?  

I'm afraid the answer is the same that lies at the the heart of most of the problems at hand, simple convenience.  It's inconvenient to have to bring the bottle with them and then dispose of it, and much more convenient to chuck it in the garbage where they are.  I can see that as plain as anyone else can.  I guess what gets me is that no one forced them to bring a plastic water bottle to begin with, it was their choice.  And yet, they don't feel a responsibility to deal with their choices once the way to deal with them becomes an inconvenience.

The bottom line of all this is this.  We all are hopefully trying to do our best by recycling and using less in the first place, but that should extend beyond our immediate homestead and out into our lives as a whole.  

Why recycle at home but not do so on a trip?  Is it less important?

Why refuse to bring styrofoam into your house and then use it at the office?  Is it less damaging to the environment?

And why hang at the park with your kids and chuck a plastic water bottle that you would have most likely recycled were you at home?

It just doesn't make sense.

OK, end of tirade (actually it sounds angrier than i am, when it should be more confused than angry).

And for those of you wondering, yes, I grabbed a bunch of them out of the barrel, brought them home, and put them in the blue bin (not mine afterall).



Moonfairy said...

So, because you brought this up, here's how hubby and I have tried to curb our, "we're going, and doing, and we need cold water, and we're thirsty and the best way to get water is to stop at a gas station and buy a bottle and GO GO GO!" We've gathered our various water bottles from different charity events where they give out free water bottles (like the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation walk, that was GREAT!) and then we fill them with water and put them in the fridge so that when we need to go and do, they are already ready already...hehe!

Then when they're gone we bring 'em home, and fill em up again! So the next time we have to "go and do" we're "already ready already! yeah!

Anonymous said...

You're absolutely right, it's a matter of convenience. I fault the local and state governments for not making it a "no brainer" to recycle by putting bins in parks, etc. Do you think there are parks in Europe with no recycle bins? They're everywhere and not having them here is ludicrous. I think given the choice, most people would throw their bottle in the blue bin (if it was there). It starts with our elected officials who need to step it up and do the right thing by passing ordinances to encourage recycling, reuse, etc.

Dave said...


Consume Less, Conserve More!!!


Cathy said...

you're right--convienence comes first. I was at a meeting Friday, and used a styrofoam cup for coffee b/c I forget my travel cup and desparately wanted coffee. I've gotten a pretty good recycling system at home, now I need to expand it to when I'm not home.

Anonymous said...


My questions is why these people are still buying bottled water in the first place. So many enviro organizations have anti-bottled water campaigns going. Does the "Save The Rainforest" guy have his head under a rock?

Sometimes, when I think everyone is "getting it" and that I can retire soon, I see things like this (or read them on blogs like yours) and realize how far we have to go.

Oh, and congratulations for figuring out how to put the text over your first post!!!

Anonymous said...

I just realized the same thing and started bringing home my recyclables from work last week. Love the blog!

Anonymous said...

I've noticed this as well and it reminds me of a very similar phenomenon that I observe at home and at the office. Everyone is happy to compost or recycle in the kitchen or the lunchroom, but for some reason it all goes out the window in the restroom. Clean-but-wet paper towels, paper toilet paper cores and empty plastic shampoo bottles all end up in that little garbage can under the sink. Are the rules different in there?

Dave said...

Sort of like it all goes down the toilet? (I'm sorry i couldn't resist).


Eric said...

I was thinking the same way - this past weekend. My family and I were on a historic train ride through Virginia. We ordered hot chocolate - which was served in a recycled cup and we used a drink carrier made from recycled cardboard. That was awesome they were using recycled materials -- but FAIL they didn't recycle those items after use. We brought them home - and they now reside in the composter.

Dave said...

Hey Eric,
Good on ya. i don't know if you have kids or not, but either way, why not write a letter/email to the train operating company and let them know how you feel and what you did. They may just need that nudge to go there.

Consume Less, Conserve More!!!!!


Anonymous said...

I was at a b-day party for one of my daughters fellow 3rd graders at a local park last month. All the parents tossed their cans/ bottles in the trash. many of us would have done the recycling thing if we were at home or school or work. Did we feel bad? No, because in our neighborhood (the south part of Silver Lake) we knew someone would be taking the recycles out of the trash; many of our neighbors depend on the masses not recycling, the trash picking is a major part of their household income.


Dave said...

Hey Dorit,
A good point as some people do depend on these sorts of income. That said, wouldn't it be better to have a recycle bin that would head to recycling and they could still pull stuff from that bin (would be cleaner for them too and I supsect they would appreciate that). Also, what about all the non valued recycleable items?


Anonymous said...

The other side of this is that if there WERE recycling containers in the park, they'd end up with all kinds of non-recyclable TRASH in them.

In my experience too many people pay minimal attention to where they put their unwanted items.

In my city (a suburb of Los Angeles), the recycling center tells us that 30-35% of material is in the "wrong" container (trash in the recycling barrel, recyclables in the trash).

I suppose it WOULD be better then to have recycling barrels in more places. Recycling material is sorted at some point...trash never is.

Anonymous said...

I disagree with you, Dave... at least sort of... It's not totally about convenience. If those people had some trash and they wanted to throw it away, most of them would continue to carry it until they came to a garbage can. Failing that, many would take it back to their car or house to toss it away there.

The thing that keeps them from just dropping it in the park is shame. They know that if they drop trash on the ground, they might get a hard time about it from someone else in the park. But because it's still acceptable to throw a plastic bottle in the trash, they know they could get away with it. (I bet that when they threw it away, they looked around to make sure there weren't any hippies or recycling freaks around before they tossed it.)

You know who illustrates this point?... The lady at the park at a birthday party. You can tell by what she wrote that they talked about it, and eventually they all justified it to each other. I bet they all even felt good about it. If one person had called BS on them, they all would have dutifully trucked their recyclables home, and felt like good citizens at the same time.

When we get to the point that people will stop other people from tossing their plastic bottles, plastic bottles will stop ending up in the trash.

Have I tossed? Yep. Have I stopped others? Yep. Will I try to do better? Ya. Thanks for pointing out a weakness.

Dave said...

Yes, good old fashioned shame. Perhaps i have overlooked this as a motivating factor. Thanks for pointing it out.


john said...

Here is another thought. My wife and I bought reusable grocery bags and have even put them in the car so that they are available when we are shopping. Surprisingly, she comes home some days with paper grocery bags from the grocery store. I don't believe that her having paper bags comes down to inconvenience. She knows that reusable makes sense.
I believe that it takes a certain level of awareness, in the moment, which you are raising with your blog. We all have a certain level of consciousness about reduce/reuse/recycle. The need is for us as a community to make responsible decisions about resources a societal choice not a series of individual decisions.

Dave said...

Agreed John, and the next step after awareness is for it to become second nature. Once we get to the place where drinking water from the tap is normal again, and taking a plastic bag abnormal, we'll be headed in the right direction.


Harmony said...

I too sigh... and feel guilty.

I hike regularly... 1-3x a week and always take a trash bag and pick up any trash I come across. Most trails aren't bad but when we do road hikes (in the winter) it can be pretty darn ugly. I just can't walk by it. Some people notice flowers, I tend to notice trash. I am really good about sorting the bottles and cans...my friend Mary Sue takes it to our local recycling place and donates the money to our Redwood Coast Land Conservancy... BUT I have not yet gotten into the habit of sorting the other recyclable items - paper, cardboard, etc. Shame on me. Looks like I should carry 3 bags with me.... thanks for making me think more about my daily habits. It is time to change!

Anonymous said...

I do the same thing at work. If I see a bottle or can in the garbage I trake it out and put it in the recycling bin. There is a recycling bin literally DIRECTLY beside all the garbage cans (my company is definitely riding the 'green' wave) but yet they still just put them in the garbage. But I've found that after you've embarrassed a person by going into the garbage, getting their waste, and disposing of it properly the tend to do it themselves next time (only because they know I'll just do it again and call them out for it).
Dave your mission here is inspirational. I'm already a composter, avid recycler, and encourage others to do the same, but your blog has made me think more about WASTE and how to minimize it.
In case you don't hear it enough. You're a hero and you're throwing some pretty huge rocks into the pond!

Glenda said...

Okay, I know this is an older post but I did want to tell of my recent 'journey' with my 83 year old father. I took him on a road trip that went thru 11 states and was about 3200 miles.

He thought I was a touch looney (okay crazier than normal) as I kept any items we used that were recyclable in a bag in the back seat.

If we were with someone who didn't recycle, in the bag it went (to include any items they used during our visit that could be recycled). If they did recycle, I dropped off what I'd collected.

I got strange looks and my Dad occasionally TRIED (unsuccessfully) to 'take out the trash' when we made rest stops. But I came home happier than not. My husband just kind of looked at the bag, rolled his eyes and hugged me.