How Hard Can It Really Be?

How hard can it really be? Yes I’m talking to you. I want to know how hard it can really be to just open your eyes and look at what is in front of you. . I spent one hour today sitting in a local Bridgehead coffee shop and witnessed a microcosm of what I expect is a global outbreak. I am absolutely astonished at the number of recyclable items that are thrown into the trash in one hour.

Bridgehead should be one of the better scenarios out there. It is a company that puts a great deal of effort into environmental and social responsibility and is a business that has taken care to have recycling and composting options available in addition to traditional waste. Every village, town and city has a cross section of options, some cities are worse than others, but in this case we are talking about a business that is taking extra care to provide solutions.


I sat and sipped on my Organic Fair Trade Ethiopian blend coffee, out of my mug and watched as customer after customer, with a few exceptions, scraped the entire contents of their lunch waste into the garbage bin. Six inches away from the garbage can is a big hole labeled “compost”, and six inches to the right of that was another opening labeled “glass and plastic.”

What is the problem here? The problem is consumer apathy; there is just no other excuse. It’s bad enough that when someone has had their food and beverage “for here” they still choose to get it in a paper cup or bag, but then to just pitch it all in the garbage can is a complete disrespect for the planet and its inhabitants.

According to “nearly 60 to 70 percent of waste found in dust bins can be recycled and reused and close to 50 percent of the same waste can be composted.” The same site reports that “almost every hour, nearly 250,000 plastic bottles are dumped. It is not surprising that plastic bottles constitute close to 50 percent of recyclable waste in the dumps.” These statistics are alarming, but not surprising based on what I saw in person.

We need to wake up, give our heads a shake, and make an effort. Those of us who are already doing our part have to try and have an impact on a few people that don’t seem to care. Those of us who are blindly contributing to the problem need to snap out of our lethargy.

What are you going to about it?



Article first published as How Hard Can It Really Be? on Technorati.


5 Comments to “How Hard Can It Really Be?”

  1. Hi Les

    I’m one of those apathetic consumers and here’s why: I don’t believe recycling works. I am totally open to my mind being changed and welcome any dialogue on the subject.
    I’ve read alot of articles stating that most of ‘recycled’ materials end up at the garbage dump and we pay astronimcally more for the priviledge. For example- “Recycled” plastic water bottles are flown to India where a small amount are down cycled and the rest go the an Indian garbage dump. I see recycling as a bandaid that isn’t working….a bandaid when an amputation is needed. Consumers need to radically change how they live and use.
    I know this isn’t the popular green view. It seems to be like recycling is a new religion and those whose question it or don’t believe in it get burned at the public stake….

    • Thanks for commenting Julie! I love it!

      While I would definitely agree that recycling doesn’t work perfectly, and that our greatest opportunity to have an impact on our environment happens long before the opportunity to recycle does, I don’t think that this justifies just casting it aside altogether. Like any other relatively new concept (at the scale it is taking place now) it will take some time, and more importantly, investment until it really has an impact. In a way, we are still in phase one of the operation.

      Consumers drive the effectiveness of recycling through our choices as well. When we choose a product that is made from recycled content we are in essence “voting” that we choose products that have less of an impact on the environment. We are starting to see a groundswell of up-cycling taking place. Even in our community, you can find new stores opening all the time that carry products made from 100% recycled waste. These are all movements that have the opportunity to grow exponentially if they are supported.

      Let’s face it, if I need a new knife or new siding for my house for that matter, I am going to purchase it. I choose products made from recycled metal or plastic, I am at the same time NOT choosing products that are made from newly sourced metal and plastic. In order for these options to continue to exists and flourish, we need to have access to the recycled items. Yes, it costs money, lots of it. It would have been better if we had never started bottling water to begin with, but we are where we are, and there will be some discomfort in getting out this situation. Even if we were to ban plastic bottles (which would be awesome), there would still be a plethora of plastic products out there, many of which we cannot do without based on our current technology. For all these reasons, I believe we need to embrace every kind of recycling available and continue to invest financially in these areas as well.

  2. Wow!! The first good answer I’ve actually ever heard…that it might help later even it’s not doing much now….then it MAY be an expense that’s worth it…..I will ponder. Thanks!!

  3. I have been obsessed with recycling as far back as I can remember, and it is always so hard for me to understand why other people just can’t be bothered to do it right, or to do it at all. I used to work with someone who tossed her water bottle/pop can into the trash every day when she arrived, even though our recycling bin is just as easily within reach. Imagine the shock when I learned that she and her husband don’t even recycle at home! How is it possible that in the year 2011 there are still people who aren’t recycling? If making a difference is such a simple thing to do, why can’t people be bothered to do it? Is it because they’re lazy, or self-absorbed, or ignorant? Maybe. But I prefer to think that they’re indifferent or apathetic to the idea of recycling because they feel helpless; that it doesn’t make a difference, that these little daily actions are insignificant drops in the bucket in the grand scheme of things. And THAT kind of thinking I can totally relate to! I’m also a vegan, and it can become very overwhelming thinking about all of the millions of animals unnecessarily suffering at the hands of humans every single day. If a person doesn’t care about what they’re putting into their body, I suppose it might be very easy to look the other way and think, “How could one person make any kind of a difference anyway?” But I continue to avoid meat, dairy, eggs, wool, leather, feathers, etc. because I believe my actions DO make a difference, and I KNOW that my choices (as a consumer, like you said) will contribute to positive change in the world…even if it’s not happening as quickly as I’d like it to. It’s all about supply and demand. Which is why I chose to buy picture frames for my recently acquired art work that were made with 80% recycled content. Just because I could. That great Margaret Mead quote comes to mind a LOT: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

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