It is recycling day. I bring in the black bin (plastic and metal) and the blue bin (paper), and make sure that I don’t put regular trash in these bins. Sometimes I forget, shake my head, and pull the out of the black or blue bin and put it in the regular trash bin.
There have been many essays about the futility of doing this. Some write that the trash companies, for all their show of having separate recycling trucks just throw everything together. Others write that the energy required to recycle is actually more than the energy to create new things, and therefore actually expends more resources than it supposedly saves.
So maybe my recycling is an exercise in futility. Maybe its effect on the world is minimal.
So why do it? I mean, I was groggy this morning. I could have slept an extra fifteen minutes.
Yet as thought about what I was doing, I thought about what, with my actions, I was not being. And in my answer to that lay, I think, the reason that I recycle.
I like to avoid using harsh language in my writing, so I will simply say that there is a word that people use when describing a certain type of person. It involves an orifice. No doubt you know it.
Generally speaking, when people use this term, they refer to someone who has little or no empathy for others. This is a person who complains mightily about the way that the world affects them, but give no thought to the way that they affect the world.
They are, for example, people who will complain mightily if someone’s dog goes on their property (even if the person picks it up and leaves no trace behind), but at the same time, they will also complain about that same neighbor being upset when their own dog takes a bite out of the neighbor’a child’a face.
And again and again, with these particular people, there is a strange, almost sick delight in littering.
Yes, these people are usually the ones that say that there are few consequences about the litter that they throw on the ground, dump in the water, or spew into the air. In truth, though, they’re usually quite aware of what they’re doing, and it becomes clear: they actually get pleasure from the effects that this filth has on others.
There is, for example, something called “rolling coal,” in which people actually modify the engines of their cars to be coal firing, so that they spew dark, gritty exhaust. These people then talk, with a smug purring smirk, about how they specifically pull in front of hybrid cars in the hopes that their exhaust will completely black out the road for the driver behind them, and that the driver will crash. Often, these people will then mention the environmental concerns of the person driving the hybrid car, and say that the world is a better place if that person is maimed or dead.
Yes, there really are people who do this. I saw one on the road once.
Fortunately, I do not drive a hybrid car.
So I recycle, because I almost view it as training for my mission to be the opposite of this. I want to always think about the effect that my actions have on others. And when I do that, I’m reminded that when I make a mess, it’s a good idea to clean it up.
Because when I do that, it actually makes me think about how I can maybe help clean up someone else’s mess. It may not always be a physical mess. It may, for example, be a mother who’s melting down as her toddler melts down in the supermarket and pulls things off the shelf, and my realization that I could step away from my cart, put the things back on the shelf, look at this mother, and say, calmly “you’re doing fine…this is just a bump in the road.”
It’a a little thing, I know, separating bottles and cans. But I still do it. It reminds me that other people matter, and that there is no joy that comes in fouling their nets. In other words, it is training in how to avoid becoming one of those people who, unfortunately, richly deserve the designation implicit in, you know, that word.
There are far too many living embodiments of that word in the world. It is best not only to avoid becoming one, but to become the opposite of one. Recycling is excellent training and reinforcement of the ideals that embody the opposite of this state of being, and as such, I shall do it faithfully.