Reduce, Re-Use… and Rip-Off?

Recycling is such a racket, at least in my current experience.

I try to do the green thing.  Actually, where I live in Roseville, recycling is built-in to the waste pick-up service, so we can just throw our plastic, aluminum and glass in with the rest of our trash, and rest assured that these materials will be sorted out and properly recycled.  But what about that deposit I paid at the register? Lost, at least to me.  I have no doubt Roseville is collecting a tidy sum for all this stuff, and well they should, I guess.  Those funds surely make their way into the budget somewhere; at the very least I would hope they reduce the cost we pay for garbage pickup.

What if I want to recover that deposit myself?  I have to save this stuff up, separately, which in a small house is no small feat.  Then I have to devote time to go to a “recycle center.”  My experience with such centers is that it feels like some kind of dirty, back-alley deal.  They are generally behind the supermarket, hidden from street view, and with good reason.  It’s a smelly, grimy affair—I’m sure I don’t need to describe the blow by blow of it.

I don’t actually consume that much that comes out of an aluminum, glass or plastic container.  My family’s biggest vice is 2-liter bottles of club soda, which are so voluminous that even at 10¢ a pop (pardon the pun) it’s too hard to collect enough of them to make the recycling trips worth the time.  So I collect my aluminum (more club soda, at the office) and glass (the occasional beer or bottled Frappacino), and generally only need to go to the recycle center once a year.

I just made this trip, which is why it’s on my mind.  One bag of cans (pre-crushed by my foot), one bag of glass, which amounted to $8.47.  I can definitely say that I make more at my day job in the half hour it took than $9.  Which is to say, I suppose, that I can really afford not to go at all.  This reduces the financial incentive for recycling to those who you generally see waiting in line at the recycling center—those who really need that money back.

I’m sure I’m about to commit all kinds of broad generalizations and unfair classisms—so be it.  I am a product of my own background, and this is my perspective.  Chiefly, I would say that it would be far better for those who drag up endless bags of 1-liter soda bottles from 7-11 and Budweiser cans to save an awful lot of money and just drink water.  Certainly it would be better for their health.  In this economy, I sometimes feel guilty about the club soda, which is pretty darn cheap. In fairness, on this most recent trip I did see a large quantity of San Peligrino bottles, which while still expensive, at least is better for you than Coke.

I must conclude that recycling is a racket, like mail-in rebates. Most people never collect—those that do tend to be so cash-strapped that they ought not make the purchase in the first place.

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