Persistent People

What an interesting society in which I find myself.  I am lucky enough to live in an area where there is curbside recycling.  This means that in order to fill my eco-karma for the week, all I have to do is throw my recyclables into a SEPARATE bin, and then remember to put them out once a week for collection.  It’s amazing that anyone could fail to do such a simple thing.  Fortunately, compared to 10 years ago, many more people do recycle.  Every Wednesday morning, the streets are lined with bins like these.  It warms my heart, just a little.

But what happens when, all of a sudden, the system breaks down?  This year, the weekly recycling day fell on a National Holiday: July 4th.  Yet for some reason, my neighbors still expected that the recycling pickup would commence as usual.  What do they think this is, that famous geyser at Yellowstone, old faithful?  No, this is a man-made, governmental system that does not operate on holidays.

So the regular recycling day came and went, and still PEOPLE LEFT THEIR BINS OUT, hoping the collection truck would come the next day.  It did not.  Nor the day after that.  My neighborhood was beginning to look like this…the recycling was taking over!

Okay, I may be exaggerating a little.  And it’s lucky for everyone that we didn’t have any major storm events in the intervening days.  But I doubt people would have taken the time to take their bins in.

Finally, this morning, after 3 full days of staring at those bins, the recycling collector put me out of my misery!  I turns out there was an official notification that only one bored neighbor read informing us that collection was scheduled to occur today all alone.  But if the collection hadn’t come until the following Wednesday, I bet those people would have left those bins out for a full week, just in case.

My main point here is not about the recycling bins.  Honestly, it wasn’t a major concern of mine.  But I do think it’s symptomatic of some problems in our society.  First, very few people think to ask questions…they just assume that things will occur as expected, and don’t question when they are amiss.  Second, most people are resistant to change.  Instead of realizing that the collection was rescheduled and adjusting by putting their bins in, they simply left them as-is.  I think that’s just pure laziness.

And finally, I really do think that if all of a sudden, trash and recycling collectors stopped coming to our neighborhood for months on end, people would still put their bins and trash out for collection.  They might even realize the change, but that wouldn’t stop them from piling it up outside.  It makes me think about how quickly our society could disintegrate if just a few small things were to go amiss.

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