We’re in an age when we’re all told to recycle and compost. But I think it’s wrong to recycle and compost at all costs. I have another societal project to present to you.
A half-century ago, a group of youths used to earn pocket money by collecting paper and cardboard to recycle. I was part of that group. Paper and cardboard were gathered up and tied up together with string. That way, it was easier to put in piles. I used to swell up with pride when gazing upon those high piles of paper that we would sell. The proceeds went to defraying ice rink hours so we could play hockey.
When this sort of recuperation began, paper, plastic and metal all went into the same small recycling container. These containers didn’t stand up very well at all to the wind. Some of their contents would spill out and escape. Moreover, these containers would fill up quickly.
One night, by chance while at a show at the TOHU theatre in Montreal, I learned that the recycling centre was nearby. It was a huge overflowing warehouse. Outside the warehouse was a giant pile of material, some of it blown around by the wind. Seagulls hovered over this artificial mountain, attracted by the table scraps it contained. An enormous tractor tried to push this material into the warehouse.
To succeed in giving new life to this material we want to recycle, we first have to make sure we separate it out properly. Some reports have shown that garbage trucks sometimes take this stuff right to the dump! We’ve tried to do too much, and I don’t think our results have been very satisfactory. As the saying goes, too much is just like not enough.
Why not recycle less, but better? For example, why not first go after the most profitable, easiest materials to treat? Seeing this super-saturated warehouse, that feeling of pride I used to get a half-century ago, collecting all that material, has disappeared.
Today we have to pay taxes for recycling, and we don’t seem to be getting the results we want.