Recycling When It Counts
20 Nov 2007
Yesterday a Canadian was giving me a hard time at work because I threw away my plastic drink bottle instead of putting it in the recycling box. I thought this was kind of funny. Oftentimes in China you see waste receptacle with one side labeled “for garbage” and the other side labeled “for recycling.” Then you look inside the thing and you realize that both sides just go to one big garbage bag. Now, tell me… are you really going to make sure you throw your recyclables in one side of the garbage bag, and your garbage in the other?
At most other places, anytime you throw anything out in China, it’s going to be picked through later for valuable recyclables. I simply threw away my plastic bottle in the office because I felt very sure it would be rescued for recycling by someone whose livelihood depended on it, and they’d be going through the same garbage whether I threw away that bottle or not.
Don’t get me wrong… I’m all for recycling. But what’s the point in empty gestures when you know what’s going on? Let’s recycle when it counts.
Steve at Praxis Language told a good story which illustrated this.
> A friend was taking a cruise on the Yangtze River in China. He was enjoying the cruise, but disgusted to see many passengers throwing their garbage overboard, into the river. Determined to do the right thing, he made sure to always walk all the way to the far end of the deck to the one garbage can to dispose of all his trash. It was a pain, and he was only one person vs. the littering masses, but it was the right thing to do.
> Later in the cruise, the garbage can filled up. A custodian went over to take care of it. To the friend’s horror, he lifted the garbage can and upended its contents into the Yangtze River.
Hmmm, on the one hand, always “recycling” (even when it’s pointless) reinforces good habits. On the other hand…