The power of presence....
Today was a good day, beautiful weather, I am only coughing up one lung instead of two, unlike the rest of last week. So I decided to chance it and continue what's become a tradition for me. The local sports store's Fun Run 5K. For me it's been a personal benchmark to see how the winter holidays took a toll on my conditioning. (I have another fitness challenge in the form of a one mile timed swim I did last week and probably took out both my lungs for the rest of the week. Details). Since I did the first three races, hell or bad health I had to the fourth running. I wont' bore you with the details, as sadly my streak of continuous improvement was broken.
But this is an eco-blog, not a fitness blog. Now the Sports Basement is an incredibly example of local commerce. It is not just a store, but a center of activity for the local fitness community. They collect old shoes for recycling, they have recycling bins all over the store. But one place they did not have it was at the race end. There were lots of donated goodies, drinks from different vendors and all kinds of nourishment post race. But for all those plastic bottles they didn't have a recycling bin. Now someone asked the organizer about it and he said they'd separate it later. I had no doubt someone on his staff would. They are those kind of people. But it still bugged me. The issue is not so much whether it would be separated, but whether there was a reminder that we need to separate.
There is a conventional argument that recycling should be single stream disposal, this way you don't put the onus of recycling on the consumer hence inconveniencing them. With single stream, all garbage goes into one receptacle and it's sorted later. And even when you have multistream recycling with recyclables and non-recyclables. The truth is you still have to sort of the recyclables since someone is going to toss non-recyclables in the recyclables. So it's redundant so might as well go to single stream.
Yes this makes sense if the point is the recycling, but no the point of recycle bins is ultimately behavior change. Seeing a recycling bin and others recycling makes a conscious imprint that there is a norm, that recycling matters. Aside from the few jerks who antagonize the system, most people will try to adhere to the norm. It's how we are. Well most of us.
The goal of our systems is not to outsource activities so that we don't have to consciously recycle. No the goal of our systems is to have us recycle without consciously thinking about it. So the presence of bins and recycling markers makes a difference, not in the end result but in the pre-result.