The Recycle of Life
My wife burst into our bathroom as I was drying myself off from the morning shower. She had the glad tidings that our long promised recycling tub had arrived. This gift from the city has been expected for some months now, and Rayda has grown quite impatient for its delivery. For reasons which will be explained below, I was at best ambivalent about the prospect, but I put on a happy face for her sake.
Austin has, of course, had recycling containers for many years. They were little blue plastic tubs that could be carried out each week with the recyclable materials. In an effort to cut jobs, Austin has replaced the old recycling buckets that could easily be lifted by a human to enormous plastic rolling recycle containers that could, in a pinch, be used at a mortuary. This was done so that the city could buy a bunch of trucks which would be needed to lift these behemoths and dump them in the large truck bed. Since few people were able to even fill up their small buckets, this seemed a bit drastic. The city made up for that oversight by deciding to run recycling every two weeks instead of the convenient once a week. Then they announced that the recycled material would be trucked up to the Dallas area (a 420 mile round trip) to be offloaded. That way the city could waste the maximum amount of petroleum at the same time that they were taking away the only profitable labor that many of our local homeless are able to do, pick up aluminum cans and sell them. In Austin this is what we call a win/Wynn situation in honor of our mayor, Will Wynn.
At this point I should admit to having a distinctly bad attitude toward recycling. It started, as most bad attitudes do, from pure selfishness. It was a lot easier to put all refuse into one receptacle, as had been done since time began, than it has been to separate , into identifiable groups, the things that we throw away. For years I have been a reluctant recycler, often dropping known garbage items into recycle bins rather than having look around for the proper receptacle. My attitude hardened in to early 1990s when the New York Times Magazine printed a cover feature on the futility of recycling. The thing I remember best about that article is the analysis of what was needed in order to do away with the solid waste problem in this country for a thousand years or more. The idea was simple, which Is one reason that I was able to grasp it. The author said that a hole could be dug in Nevada or Utah or another one of those states where we used to test nuclear weapons. I don’t recall the exact size of the hole, it was big alright, but not of any size that would shock the conscience of even a resident of one of those God forsaken states. A system of railroads would then be developed to take all of our solid waste out there to dump it. If someone really wanted anything, they could set up shop out there and segregate it as it came through. No muss, no fuss, no molded plastic rolling containers that I have to schlep out to the curb every other week. Like all sensible ideas, this one died without even a national discussion.
No one should really be against recycling. The entire earth is one recyclable system, the water goes up, the rain comes down, that type of thing. In the end, this blog is nothing but a containerless recycling bin, floating in the ether, retelling old tales and revamping old arguments to sell to new, but more often, the same old audiences. In the end, every idea, good or bad, is recycled, just as history seems to recycle itself, leaving us in the same messes our grandparents and their grandparents before them found themselves in. So I will bend to the inevitable and duly push our new bin out to the curb every other week, knowing that the plastic water bottle I see hauled away may come back some day as a hospital tube which will help to save my life, or a piece of a child’s toy, carelessly left on the sidewalk, which I will trip over on my daily walk. As the Lord makes his rain fall on both the good and the evil, the recycling of life is always neutral.