Right in the centre - More imagination please


Ken Waddell
The Neepawa Banner

Last week’s column on recycling drew a swift response from the industry. The letters are being published as soon as space allows. Nothing draws response faster than questioning sacred cows and recycling is, to many folks, a sacred cow. A sacred cow is one that must be worshipped, not questioned and heaven forbid that someone might suggest a better way to accomplish the stated dogma of an industry. That’s what happens when you get fads, ideology and misplaced good intentions all bundled up in politics.

Of course, most people want to recycle, it is the right thing to do. The recycling industry has many households on side with that idea. Many people do use the blue containers, be they the household blue boxes or the sidewalk containers. The problem is that many don’t and many won’t use them properly. I don’t think I have ever seen a public blue bin that wasn’t stuffed with a mixture of garbage and recycling. Often, they are overflowing, they aren’t emptied often enough. Workers may as well go along with the garbage truck when it comes to public blue bins because, due to contamination, the garbage heap is where it is headed anyway.
The recycling industry touts the oft-repeated phrase, “It’s a matter of education”. That is true to an extent, but you can spend as much time and money as you want on education and a project like recycling will never be adopted by the number of people that it needs to succeed. Recycling, to be successful, must be commercialized. As it is now, the youth groups or individuals who might be the foot soldiers of recycling are often squeezed out of the process. There is no money to pay them.
The recycling industry claims that the levy system in Manitoba is working well. It is working well for them and to some extent for the municipalities. They all get their pay cheques regardless of the results. But the point being missed is that there is a huge amount of recycling being buried. The reason for that is much of the recycling is contaminated and must head to the landfill. A lot of recycling also never sees a blue bin.
What I find amazing is that many people attached to the recycling sacred cow don’t seem interested in a “pay the gatherer” system or an energy production clean burn system. The current system has come a long way in bringing attention to the recycling industry, but a lot of that attention has been those very guilt trip, annoying ads about how many drink cans in the landfill are yours. It is a guilt by association system that typically oozes out of the socialist mindset; Do as we say or we will make you feel guilty and ostracize you. I prefer the please do this and you will be compensated system. Or the boy scouts and 4-H groups will be compensated. Compensated youth groups or more bureaucrats? Which is better?
If I sound a bit frustrated or even bitter, it is because I am. The recycling industry has been laying guilt trips on people for a long time. Recycling is very important and I think that tossing trash or recyclables on the ground, or worse yet, in the waterways, is horrible. Why anyone would throw shopping carts or tires in the river is beyond my comprehension. 
That said, I am equally appalled by the lack of imagination, the lack of recognition of the value of seeking a profit and the lack of direction that government, and sometimes industry, applies to this problem.
God bless all the earnest people in the recycling industry but please, let’s look at better ways.