On Thursdays we wheel our garbage and recycling containers to the curb for city pickup. Recycling comes every other week, and we can never remember which one, so we just bring them both. Our recycling bin is always full, but since we’ve been composting, I’ve seen a decline in our regular household waste.
We’re fairly vigilant about recycling: lots of cardboard packaging and paper — and newspapers! — move through our household, along with sacks full of cans and renewable plastics. My wife brings the glass to a recycling facility herself, when the bag gets full.
But this got me thinking about incentives and the way they’re supposed to work. And I offer a solution.
I believe we all agree that recycling is a good thing, but I also believe that a lot of people don’t do it because it’s a bit of a pain in the ass, and it’s easier just to toss everything in the same place. But recycling is mandatory for businesses and government agencies in North Carolina. In Greensboro, there are penalties for contaminating the recycling bin — which is why I now get paper bags at the grocery instead on non-recyclable plastic ones — and none for placing recycling in the garbage bin.
But try to pass an ordinance like that and some people would start frothing at the mouth.
Instead, the city should pick up recycling every week and regular household waste every other week.
People would adjust very quickly, once their green bins come back full a couple times and maybe after they get cited for contaminating the recycling stream in the brown ones.
Most people, I believe, would prefer this set-up. And the few who don’t will get used to it after a couple months.