Several years ago, when Montgomery stopped curbside recycling service, with those big orange bags, I immediately looked into other options and began recycling everything that I still could. (Recycling glass in Montgomery has been almost impossible, but aluminum, #1 and #2 plastics and cardboard are easy.) I was separating out the trash and carrying it first to Mount Scrap facility north of downtown, then to the big lime-green dumpsters placed around town by the city. The kids and I used to make a game out of it; we’d load up our wagon, and it was their job to pull the wagon to the dumpsters behind Huntingdon College— then I would pull them home.
This way of handling recycling wasn’t difficult, but it had its downsides. At my house, we either had to keep the recycling outside, which made the practice inconvenient, or we had to keep it inside, which risked drawing bugs into the house. We had to wash out every aluminum can or plastic bottle, and often the cardboard from food packaging would stack up everywhere. Not the end of the world, but harder than just throwing everything away and not giving a crap about it.
The problem I had with this situation didn’t regard me and my household; it regarded what I quickly saw as a general unwillingness to recycle. I would often hear, “The city quit with the orange bags so I can’t recycle anymore,” and I would tell them, “No, you just have to take it yourself now. The city just doesn’t pick it up on the curb.” That objection didn’t matter much. Most people I know quit recycling, and only those a small adamant percentage kept on, even once those bright green dumpsters were located all over town.
But the City of Montgomery is about ready to institute a new program, the first of its kind in the nation, to have an independently contracted company receive all of the city’s trash, separate out the glass, plastic, aluminum and paper, and recycle everything that can be recycled. You can read WSFA’s online news story from June 19 about it by clicking here. I’m very thankful for this development, since it means that everyone in Montgomery will be recycling, whether they know it or not.
I’ve learned about political action or any kind of activist behavior that there are only three ways to get most people to participate: 1. make it fun, 2. convince them that the issue has an immediate and pressing relationship to their own way of life, or 3. make the sought-after change so easy that there’s no way anyone can say no. About the first way, there’s really no way to make separating trash and carrying it away into something fun. About the second way, scientists who study these things can’t even agree on whether environmental issues are pressing or not. But this recycling solution by Montgomery’s city government uses that third notion to great effect. Bravo, folks! If the people won’t come to recycling, then have the recycling come to them.