Recycling is a legal act of civil disobedience
For some, recycling is a controversial act, even bordering on communism. I once met a man who thought that recycling was just a cover for supporting a left-wing conspiracy to end all mining everywhere. He thought recycling an aluminum can was going to threaten his already disappearing livelihood.But who can blame him? After all, recycling is usually championed by idealistic, scraggly tree-huggers like me who like to espouse the environmental and karmic benefits of conserving resources. Sure, recycling makes sense on an intuitive level; we all know that the resources on this planet are finite, and we should probably conserve them. In some states, it even pays cold hard cash to recycle. But, to me, recycling is more than that: It’s a vote against the American status quo and a patriotic act of civil disobedience.How can something so seemingly mainstream be an act of civil disobedience, you wonder? Here’s why: The U.S. is the largest consumer in the world. We are the largest waster in the world. We are the largest producer of greenhouse gases in the world.Numbing statistics show that our American buying habits affect life everywhere on this planet, and not for the better. And, by and large, we’re proud of it. The rest of the “developed world” is way ahead of us in resource conservation and re-use. Manufacturers of everything from diapers to computers make different, more recyclable or less-toxic products for European markets than they do for U.S. markets. More growth and more consumption are indicators of a healthy economy, a feather in the hat of global power, and something to flaunt with short sighted arrogance. Heck, we are even training developing countries to follow our path to grow and consume like we do. But, in our current one-way system, this growth in consumption comes with growth in waste and pollution. About 90 percent of all goods travel down a one-way pipe to a landfill or an incinerator, passing through the hands of Americans, often for only a brief respite before they are discarded forever. Here’s where recycling becomes an act of civil disobedience against the most powerful country in the world: Recycling goes against that one-way system. It was the first step in creating a closed loop system. Recycling is a chant for a better way of managing society’s discards. It’s direct action supporting the redesign of products to be re-used. And it’s a recycled wrench in the wheels of impossible eternal growth in a system of one-way consumption.Economic growth and re-use of resources can co-exist, they aren’t mutually exclusive. We can have convenient goods and oodles of items to comfort us without all of the waste. We just have to redesign our products so that they can easily be returned to the manufacturing loop or decomposed in nature. We have to change the way we value waste and how we quantify economic growth. So, each time I throw a catalogue in a recycling bin, I know that I’m protesting an unsustainable economy. I’m disobeying that one-way system of consumption. And I’m voting for a less wasteful America.Carly Wier is the executive director for Summit Recycling Project, a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization dedicated to minimizing waste in Summit County and surrounding areas. She can be reached at (970) 668- 5703 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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