When Ed McGrath and I started talking about doing this series of columns, Ed said. “The whole recycling world can be summed up with a great big dollar sign. It’s all about the money.” It sounds crass but that is really what it is all about. It’s a constant conflict between people wanting to do the “right” things and municipalities having to deal with reality, namely the money.
Ultimately, almost everything is recyclable, but does it make any sense to do it? A good example is Styrofoam; it seems it should be able to be recycled, and the good news it can be. Not in your cart though, you need to drive to Elmwood Park, New Jersey to make it happen. So yes, you can recycle it, but it’s up to you to make the drive. Does it still make sense? We are all faced with the cost/benefit analysis of everything we recycle. Plastic bags, for instance, are recyclable, not in your blue cart, but yes recyclable. But it’s up to you to take them to the store, the cost.
The history of recycling is interesting. It used to be a pragmatic endeavor. People would reuse and recycle things because they personally needed the materials. During World War II, recycling became a way to mobilize a country, a way to share in the war effort. It wasn’t until the late 1960s that recycling became virtuous. People started to recycle “because it was good for the planet.”
We are still dealing with the consequences of being virtuous. “Wishcycling” is a serious hindrance to efficient recycling. People are looking to do the “right thing” by recycling more, and they make the decision that putting things in the blue cart is better than putting things in the trash. Their recycling becomes aspirational, but the negative consequences are real.
I received this article on what happens after you take your blue cart to the curb.
What Actually Happens When You Recycle
Outside Magazine – May 25, 2020
There are important decisions to make before and after your recyclables leave your hands.
And for our own local questions, please check out this site:
Recycle Smart Massachusetts – Recyclopedia: Can I recycle it?
We will keep writing the Know-No’s and give you specific examples we come across.