Nobody Is Making Us

I often ask myself why Americans don’t recycle more. I’ve lived in my current home for 14 years and the same percentage of my neighbors recycle: about 30%, or 2 of the 6 families on the cul-de-sac. At times I have made efforts to get them to recycle more, but neither the efforts nor the recycling lasted.

I’ve been tempted lately to have a cul-de-sac event and have all of us bring out our trash and sort it into piles of recyclables and un-recyclables. But I can’t bring myself to broach the subject. I’m afraid—that my neighbors will think I’m a pest, that nobody will want to do it, that I’ll feel slighted. I wish I were better at getting groups to do things. My husband is good at that, so perhaps I should recruit him. Perhaps he could teach me.

Somehow I developed an exaggerated sense that I should not bother people, that I should not impose my own views on them. Yet people do that all the time. It’s called “getting to know someone.” I wish I could find a pleasant way to talk to people about my recycling obsession in person, but for now I’m doing so on my website.

The only way Americans will get to Zero Waste is if they are forced by the government. I wish it weren’t so; I wish there was a business solution. But with landfill fees at only $12/ton in Colorado, recycling doesn’t stand a chance. The state of Colorado could encourage recycling by raising landfill fees, but I have a feeling there’s a pretty effective lobby against that.

Here’s a link to a Boulder nonprofit that’s going for zero waste. This particular page features the Center for Hard to Recycle Materials (CHARM).