The Square Peg - S. H. I. T.
© S. Bradley Stoner
That’s right, folks. Now that I’ve got your attention, it’s So Here It’s Thursday again. Recycle pickup day in our neighborhood. This brings me to the latest wrinkle in the program. On July seventh I received a notice in the mail that, starting July sixth, the powers that be in our fine city were going to start imposing a $25.00 fine on anybody who had the temerity to put garbage in their recycle bin. It isn’t enough that we pay for this service through an imposed city-wide tax, they apparently need more to pay their make-work employees that might have to pull a little garbage out of the garbage they are recycling.
Don’t get me wrong, I have always supported recycling efforts, at least some parts of it, but let’s face it, except for metals, it’s a losing proposition from financial standpoint and just plain stupid from and environmental one. Take paper and cardboard recycling, for instance. That process creates a bunch of toxic wastes ranging from acids to chlorine bleaches, not to mention the air emissions. If you ever had to do environmental reporting to the EPA on those, you’d probably gain a quick dislike for paper recycling operations too. It’s cheaper and more environmentally friendly to make new paper. There are tons of renewable tree farms dedicated to growing nothing but trees for paper pulp. It’s a profitable business. Government sponsored recycling is not. It runs in the red everywhere. That’s why they tax us. If you don’t mind collecting your metals and transporting them to a scrap yard, you’d at least make a little money. Unfortunately, you’d still get taxed, but at least its an off-set.
I don’t want to rant here, but if you are interested, read some professional papers on the costs and benefits of recycling from an economic and environmental standpoint. Stay away from the save-the-Earth sites. They’re interested in promoting the “feel good” side of the issue. That really has very little to do with the scientific facts. I know. I had a career as an environmental scientist. Heck, I even designed recycling programs mandated for federal agencies by a series of executive orders. In my experience, an ounce of pollution prevention is worth tons of recycling.
Be that as it may, I ran into Duncan, Bob, and Charlie when I went to retrieve my recycle bin this morning. As usual, Bingo Bob was on the fight. “You see that notice the city sent out?” he yelled.
None of us was sure whom he was addressing, so we answered together, “Yep,” and started wheeling our blue bins back behind our fences. That’s an HOA thing... everybody has garbage and recycle bins here, but the HOA will fine you if you leave them where they can be seen.
“Wait just a damn minute,” Bob yelled. “We need to talk about this.”
Duncan sighed. Charlie nodded resignedly, and I groaned. We all knew this was going to be painful. It always is when Bob wants to take on city hall. Personally, I quit signing Bob’s petitions. Apparently most other folks in the neighborhood did too, not that it stops him. Frankly, between the beer drinking, sports TV and fishing trips, I don’t know where he gets the time.
“They’re tryin’ to turn us into California,” Bob huffed, drawing near. I don’t know if it was the heat or his all-too-common nightly beer fests, but something was stealing his air.
We waited a minute for him to catch his breath. Well, I did. I wish I hadn’t.
“Cripes, Bob, just don’t put garbage in your recycle bin.”
“With all them beer bottles and cans, I don’t see where he’d have room,” Charlie added.
“Yeah? Well what about if some neighbor shoves his garbage in your bin when yer not lookin’? Huh? You think they’ll fine him?’
“Well,” Duncan drawled, “I don’t reckon anybody will do that to me, but you, on the other hand... well you have pissed off a lot of your neighbors.”
“No more that you, you overstuffed flatfoot,” Bob shot back.
“They won’t get much of a chance with me,” I interjected before this had a chance to escalate. “My bin only goes out about once every third week.”
That kind of backfired. Bob turned on me. “Yeah, what’s up with that?! Is Mr. Environmental Consultant too good to recycle?”
“Nope, I just don’t generate a lot. It takes me that long to accumulate enough to take it out.”
“How do you do that?” Charlie asked.
“Simple. I don’t buy a lot of prepackaged stuff.”
“What about all them books your wife gets sent to her? Aren’t you recycling that packaging?”
I was surprised Charlie had noticed that, but apparently he keeps an eye on the UPS and Fed-Ex trucks that deliver the pre-release books publishers send my wife. “Can’t,” I replied. “They’ve got all kinds of that glue gunk on them and the recycle guide says they’re trash. I don’t want to get fined.”
I thought Bob was going to stamp his foot. “Yeah, well all of that is beside the point. This fining business is just plain wrong. All’s they’re doin’ is trying to drum up more revenue to keep the skid row bums and short bus people employed. It’s just another form of welfare.”
“That’s kind of harsh,” Charlie said.
“Not to mention kind of prejudiced,” Duncan added.
“Well it’s true! You ever been down to the center?”
This was starting to make me a little uncomfortable, and that’s pretty hard to do. “So? What’s your solution?”
“I’m startin’ a petition... and a letter writin’ campaign. I’m gonna blast those bureaucrats right out of their pompous sox. What’s your solution?”
I regarded the trio for a moment, then responded, “Well, houses in this area are in high demand... I think I’ll move back to the country.”