November 09 2008

Recycling: Missing the Point…“by That Much”

by scott harrison

Reduce, Reuse, then…

…and only in case of emergency, RECYCLE.

Recycling seemed to start as a “good” thing way back when, before drinks were dispensed in plastic bottles, but now (at least IMHO) often suffices for the knee-jerk feel-good justification for picking up a few extra pallets of individual-serving drink bottles, sold in single-use plastics. “It’s OK, I’m gonna recycle them!” – YAY for the environment! Not so fast, Jolly “Green” Giant…

One of the original tenants of the Rise Above Plastics campaign was that yes, “we all rely and use many forms of plastics each and everyday – but much of that use is a convenience choice, a choice that can be swayed toward the proper environmental path, often requiring no more effort on your part”…and sometimes, increasing the fun factor in life (bond with other weirdos that bring their own reusable bottles/cups to the local coffee joint), while helping you burn-in new synapses into your noggin that come with the adoption of new actions and habits.

Even if 99% of all single-use plastics (SUPs) make it to the recycler (the hard part) and are actually recycled (the unknown part), then we still have a monumental environmental waste problem (the tangible part). The dang stuff is produced in unbelievable volumes AND just doesn’t go away! It takes energy & resources to create/ship/dispose-of that bottle that really only has a useful lifetime of ~15 mins, then takes more energy and resources to render it into something yet again. Waste, followed by waste, and compounded by waste. Lots of efforts put together just to produce and handle waste – efforts that, when realized as a waste, can and should be avoided. Nothing worse than wasted efforts – The Who put it well, “They’re all WAAAAYSTED!!”

Lead an examined life, ask yourself “Is it worth it?” – for me, the answer is no. I actively recycle SUPs that other people generate, but if I have to resort to recycling a SUP item that I have “created” by opting to use it, then that’s a failure on my part. Mamma [Earth] don’t like no failures in our family. smile Recycling as a failure – think about that. Recycling as a last resort – act on that.

Perhaps too abstract or radical a shift for the average Joe, but, like it or lump it, it’s where we all need to arrive – and is the conceptual pillar of Rise Above Plastics – “Rise Above” the concept that single-use plastics are worth all of the (hidden?) reasons that they are a bad set of ideas and actions to begin with – a pretty easy path to take, actually. Try it, you’ll like it.

Check the current issue (#68) of Surfers Path, Surfrider page (p42) for the brief “full” original RAP concept – written just about three years ago. Thanks to Surfrider’s HQ Media Maven, Tracey Armstrong, for providing that design narrative intact. Awright!

[and while you're at it, become a Surfrider member & get a Surfers Path subscription here]
Comment Section