In my kitchen there is a pile of clean milk cartons, collapsed cereal boxes, aluminum cans, an empty jug of laundry soap. This pile is there because it doesn’t belong in the garbage, yet I have nowhere else to put it. I used to utilize the monthly recycling pick-up station on Caniff (when I remembered and had time). More often, I drove to Recycle Here in Detroit to self-sort my recyclables. Inevitably, the outrageous generosity of our local recycling warriors has run out.
After the closure of the local drop-off, I went to Recycle Here only to learn they cannot accept products from outside of Detroit due to changes in the local and global economics of recycling. Hence, my pile grows. I could throw it out. I could sneak it into Recycle Here, or pay a free. I could drive west on Caniff across the Detroit border, find an alley with a blur recycling bin and dump my items in. I could drive to my hometown of Chelsea, where for over 30 years, reliable metal bins have stood ready to take sorted re-usables. What I cannot do, is recycle them here in Hamtramck.
It always been important to me to make sure I was minimizing my contribution to the landfills and incinerators of my community. I have lived in many states and countries, and always made sure to recycle. The only place I have had a harder time recycling was when I lived in South Africa.
I was excited and grateful for the new recycling stations that were announced earlier this year-an answer for the loss of our local drop-off events. It makes so much more sense to have a permanent location, open 24/7, that does not rely on the labor and time of a few volunteers. My enthusiasm has since waned. I have been to these new once and I do not know if I will return. I drove up with a car full of sorted items (after many failed attempts to find the location) I drove away about 2 minutes later with a car that was almost equally full. I do not buy water bottles, I had just a little cardboard. Most of what I brought could not be disposed there. Why did we create such a narrow solution and put it in the least convenient part of town? If we want someone to do something, we should make it as easy as possible for them to do it.
Recycling is a communal behavior. It is inconvenient and annoying, we do it because we care, but the less convenient and more annoying we make it, the fewer people will participate. When these bins, inevitably, turn out to be empty and unused after a few months, the likely conclusion will be that Hamtramck is just not ready for recycling and it’s not worth our time. Nothing could be further from the truth. We are ready! We just need the right tools. We need a permanent drop-off location in a convenient part of town that accepts the majority of commonly recycled items. Bonus points for curbside pick-up, but I can wait for that GM money to start backup before I dream too big.
We are a city that lives in close quarters and tight community. We sits adjacent to the former incinerator. Many of our Bangladeshi residents could school their neighbors on the effects of global warming and the definition of “climate refugee.” We have modest incomes and we scorn flagrant waste. And we are ideally situated for positive peer-pressure to spread great waste management habits.
I walked past the new expensive-seeming crass-looking parking meters on Joseph Campau last night. I wonder how much they cost. I wonder problem are could possibly be solving and what new ones will they create. I wish every time that was spent to lay that garish money-collector on the sidewalk had gone to solving a real problem in the city.
I hope our newly elected city council members can lead us in the spirit of new solutions to old problems. There is much to be done, and many worthy causes, but my vote is for a sustainable future!