Monday, August 10, 2009

Recycling on Your Own Turf

I'm away from Hawai'i now, spending some time in the San Francisco Bay Area on family business. Every time I travel to the city I'm amazed at how rural practices can get wildly out of hand in urban contexts. Take the concept of recycling, for example. "I'm a big-time recycler!" My city pals are fond of saying this. What it really means is that every week their curbside pickup consists of 3 colored bins: a blue one for recyclables, which they do not sort ("they have people who do that," they explain); green for "compostables," and gray for plain old "garbage," whatever that means. And, among my pals, there's competition for bragging rights to keeping the most out of the gray bin. Does this deter them from buying overpackaged items? Not necessarily -- because, hey, every week almost everything is "recyclable," right?

Apparently, in the city, recycling isn't necessarily connected with composting at home. Take for example the condo owner who lives next to my friend in the city of Alameda. That's his green bin in the photo above. He decided he no longer wanted a postage-stamp lawn and wanted a concrete patio instead - the way it was originally - so he ripped it out the grass and disposed of it just as it had come to him, sod piece by sod piece. Well, I guess he thought it is compostable, and so it made some kind of logical sense to him to stuff it in the "green" bin. But to me it somehow seemed a bit bizarre to see turf rolled up and stuffed in a garbage bin like a bit of old carpet, even though it would go to the green waste facility. Big time recyclers? Not quite, I don't think so, at least not yet.

Which makes me wonder: When it comes to recycling, how are we doing on our own turf, Hawai'i?

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