Earth Day Makes We Want to Yell at People!

Yesterday was Earth Day, the 51st celebration of this important event.  

And, as in previous years, I wished I could meet with every single major manufacturer and yell: people, work with us, here!!

There are so many crucial aspects of environmental protection that spring to mind, but I’m talking about recycling.

Manufacturers, we are begging you, work with us! 

I am someone who believes that the majority of people on our planet are decent folk who genuinely care about their fellow man and our shared planet.

Most of us are well aware that we are destroying large swathes of the earth and ocean to service our wants. And, I think most would acknowledge that developed nations tend to be the biggest offenders. 

We sit squarely at the crossroads of hyper-consumerism and environmental awareness.

However, my Pollyanna outlook stops at the manufacturers’ door, the majority of whom seem to have a total disregard for the environment. I acknowledge, there are those outliers who truly want to work for the good of the earth, but most seem to pay little more than lip service.

My dissatisfaction has grown as the years have passed. I recall learning about recycling back in the ’70s, and yet, here we are, 40-plus years later, with producers still churning out products in wasteful packaging. 

And don’t get me started about all the different recycling requirements.

Here is a list of basic household items. Read through and make a mental note of the things you cannot recycle. 

Shopping receipts, shipping envelopes, newspapers, bubble wrap, paperback books, candy wrappers, plastic water bottles, dinner plates, shredded paper, drinking glasses, takeout coffee cups, plastic sleeves from bread loaf, and supermarket grocery bags.

Let me help you out: the only thing you can place in your recycling is the newspapers! And to make it even more fun, the water bottles, and takeout coffee cups fall into two categories; you can recycle the bottle and the cup, but you mustn’t put the bottle top or cup lid in with the recycling—those go in the regular garbage.

Manufacturers, hear my cry: work with us! 

Everyone over the age of 18 has figured out that people are often lazy. We are happy to comply, but don’t make us work for it. It’s the old Homer Simpson approach to life: “If something’s hard to do, then it’s not worth doing.”

I worry that if I—someone committed to recycling—doesn’t want to spend her time playing guessing games, what hope is there for others who are either too hectic or too harried to figure it out?

I thought those little “chasing arrows” were meant to remove confusion and make the whole thing simpler, but there are seven—seven!—categories.

Category 1 is Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET/PETE). Category 2 is High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE/PEHD). Category 3 is…okay, I’ll stop there.

Years ago, my town did away with 2-stream recycling. We used to have to separate the paper from the glass and tin. Compliance was okay, not great. Then they decided we could have single-stream recycling where you dropped it all into one receptacle. Huge surprise—compliance soared.

If we want people to comply, we have to make it simple and logical. 

Manufacturers: it is up to you to make this happen.

Do not sell items in layers of rigid plastic packaging when they could just as easily have been put into a paper bag. Do not “bundle” items; a bottle within a hard shell within a box, all shipped in yet another box! Use biodegradable packaging. Use sustainable materials. 

And please, get together and work out how you can provide packaging that can all be put into ONE recycling stream.

I wish I could say that I refuse to buy products that aren’t packaged in an environmentally conscious manner, but it’s impossible. This should not be the case; we want options. 

The onus is on the manufacturers. They need to make this happen. 

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