Day in and day out we tend to follow patterns and practices established over years. Certain things may have been ingrained as far back as childhood and now we still embrace what our parents taught us. Step back and think about what makes up your current lifestyle.
I would argue that being environmentally conscious is a lifestyle. Recently, a visitor to the Keep Alliance Beautiful Recycle Center commented while handing me a box of newspapers and bottles that recycling seems important to the younger and older generations. He meant that children, teens and people up to their early 30s, perhaps, have grown up with education about the importance of preserving and helping improve the environment. Seniors who recycle are often acting upon values acquired earlier in life.
Of course there are those of us who may only recycle when it is handy. A recycling container next to a trashcan downtown is a good incentive to toss that plastic latte cup a little to the left and help the Earth.
For people who embrace green living, what they recycle reflects their overall lifestyle. We have several local residents who prefer to visit the center on a regular basis. It is fun to say “hi” or visit for a few minutes. What comes out of their pickup bed or car trunk is usually about the same as it was a week or two ago when we last met. There may be the latest issues of the magazines they read, a bag of beverage containers and cardboard from the packages shipped to the door.
Part of my job is collecting, then sorting bags from our curbside program. What I note at each stop is usually whether that residence or business has more than their single container worth of recycling, how heavy the bags are and how much space it takes up. The bags are mixed up in the truck and at the center so it is not apparent where each came from. However, as I work sorting over the next two weeks, the contents of each large black bag tells about where it came from. Households that cook at home often have a lot of paperboard from food packaging. The beverage of choice is pretty obvious with glass bottles weighing down some bags while aluminum cans or plastic bottles take up significant space in others. For people who enjoy reading there are the past issues of newspapers or magazines. Seniors usually include the most white paper on average with junk and other discarded mail.
While I admire anyone who takes the time to recycle, we see a minority of bags that include some trash or dirty/wet items. A few, in contrast, are organized with items separated by type in smaller bags.
I find the array of materiel in a specific bag like a window into what the people who filled it are like. Look, they tried kombucha this week. See all those brochures, I’m sure their graduate must be looking forward to college this fall.
Occasionally, recycling shows the long view. A few weeks ago we unloaded the back of a sports utility vehicle packed with miscellaneous boxes, bags and loose items. It took the rest of the afternoon to sort and place everything. Much of what we handled appeared to have been in storage for decades.
A casual review of the materials as some went in one bin or the other told of their former owner’s lifestyle. Numerous plastic shopping bags contained paperback books and magazines with a few hardcover books. Other bags of papers were separated as well. The person had been a teacher. I divided plastic overhead sheets from handwritten tests and lessons.
Recycling consists of what people use as they go about an average day whether deposited every week or after years gone by. While what is handled by KAB is a testimony to the community’s commitment I hope more people will share with others why they recycle. Maybe someone new will consider a green lifestyle.