Sometimes, I just want to bang my head against a wall until I don’t care anymore. Last week I ran into my neighbor down by the trash and recycling bins out behind our apartment building. Picture the scene: On one side of the enclosure is a giant trash container and on the other side are 8 recycling bins. I was in the middle of sorting my recyclables when my neighbor walked into the enclosure, threw his “trash” into the trash bin, and then turned to me and said “I don’t bother recycling – it’s too much work. I have better things to do.” Head, meet brick wall.
Most people I know have been recycling for many, many years. At minimum, almost everyone has had recycling programs in place in their town for aluminum cans for what seems like forever now. Recycling is not some new fad that just started in 2008 and is only catching on now. (Although, Americans still throw away 1,500 aluminum cans per second) Everyone knows about it so there really aren’t any excuses not to do it… especially the “it’s too much work” one. Municipalities recycle most everything now – paper, plastic, aluminum, steel, tin, fabric, electronics, even styrofoam in some places – so that not much even needs to be thrown away to the landfill anymore. The more we can recycle, the less “stuff” we drop into a hole in the ground where it sits for a few hundred (thousand?) years trying to degrade. But I digress…
My new friendly neighbor here thinks it takes too much effort to recycle his 500 soda cans and plastic bottles of laundry detergent, insisting on throwing them all in the trash even though the recycling bin is less than 8 feet away. I tried, in a gentle manner, explaining to him why we need to recycle and why it’s worth doing. I even tried to explain to him how I have 2 bins in my house – one for trash and one for recycling, which makes it all even easier come disposal time. He was having none of it. “The earth is way more powerful than we are, there is no way we can damage it with some trash”, he replied. I tried to do my best to educate him, but he basically walked away before I could even finish. Now, I have only lived here for a few months so I don’t really know anyone (it’s not an overly friendly building), and because of that fact I can’t really say too much other than what I tried to say. After all, these are the same people who put their trash out in the hall overnight so the rest of us have to smell it and they don’t, so I do understand that they just don’t give a crap. But I was hopeful I could get him to start recycling – guess I was wrong. Sometimes you can’t change the arrogant amongst us, even if you try in earnest.
What did I learn from this experience? That not everyone gets it yet. And this just encourages me to try to do even more – hold myself more accountable, do more outreach, more education, more encouragement, more writing. Because if we cannot get people to even do the simple things like recycle, we have already lost them on the bigger picture items we need to encourage each other to do as well. You can’t win them all…but you sure can try.
Do you know people like my neighbor? If so, how do you handle their attitude towards the environment?
Photo by anne.oeldorfhirsch
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