A Landfill Waiting to Happen

You’d think it would be easy. The plastic, glass and cans go in there, and the newspaper, card and junk mail goes there. The men I live with have a dozen (more or less) university degrees between them. And yet, when it comes to recycling, it’s harder to get them to do it right than it would be to put socks on an octopus.

Let’s take my husband. Please. I can’t deny he’s getting a bit better, but it’s taken me at least ten years to explain that cardboard you can bend (like cereal packets) is, for the purposes of recycling, paper. He still takes the card to the dump inside a corrugated cardboard box, where he proffers it proudly to the tired man who’s given up trying to explain.

Please don't squeeze...

As for plastic – when the town started recycling, it would only take plastics 1 & 2, but it seemed to be beyond my husband to find the symbol on the container. I tried to make it easier for him by explaining that it meant clear plastic like milk containers and water bottles, and colored containers from dishwashing liquids and other household cleaning products. After a while, I gave up and started weeding out the yogurt pots, the paper milk cartons, Styrofoam coffee cups and used flowerpots, and putting them in the trash.

As for washing things before recycling – it seems a concept that’s completely alien to my men. Not only do they not wash their soda bottles, but they twist the bottle caps on so tightly that I can’t open them to wash out the bottles myself. Aaargh!

A few months ago, the town started recycling almost everything, telling us that we could put all the paper together and all the plastic, glass and cans in a separate container. You might be thinking that this surely made it all easier – but I’m afraid that the only difference is that I’m now retrieving all the yogurt pots, Styrofoam cups, and  flowerpots from the trash, washing them, and recycling them myself. As for milk cartons, the middles of toilet rolls and paper towels, egg boxes and the like, my men just can’t seem to grasp that they are made from paper of differing thicknesses. Paper bags covered in grease from the Chinese take-out, on the other hand, are squashed into a ball and lobbed at the recycling bin.

Last week, the Good Men Project, http://goodmenproject.com/featured-content/is-recycling-for-girly-men-naaaah/, an online men’s magazine that I write for, ran an article intimating (the way I read it) that women were much more likely to recycle than men. I don’t think that my guys assume  recycling is a woman’s job. But I do think they don’t seem to understand the value of it, even though our town dump tells us how much money they’re making by recycling. It’s on a huge sign that gets updated regularly as you drive in.

A landfill waiting to happen

Maybe it’s because my husband doesn’t quite believe in global warming.  “We had more snow than ever last winter,” he says, and of course, our tiny part of the world is the entire globe to him, so it must be getting colder. My sons believe in global warming, but don’t care enough about the planet – they’re already planning to colonize Mars. All I can hope is that they end up with women who do care – or Mars will be a landfill before they know it.

London: gone to hell in a handbasket?

Yesterday I was laughing at my husband’s relationship with his laptop. Today I’m sitting at my desk watching my home town burn on Youtube.

I grew up in a leafy genteel suburb of London. Ealing was known then as the Queen of the Suburbs, a title we mocked in public, but secretly appreciated since it was always a safe, clean, friendly place to live. Since I left for the States over 30 years ago, it has changed. So has the world. But each time I go back, I find the atmosphere a little more charged. People are still friendly, and I feel pretty safe on the streets. But I’m constantly being told by my friends there that I’m too laissez faire, too lacking in awareness. They see me, as they see themselves, as a potential victim.

I have vowed not to be one of those people of a certain age who think the world is going to hell in a hand basket. But I do think that the cycle of lack of parenting, false expectations of wealth and fame, and lack of rewarding work (or maybe work of any kind) are proving to be a combustible mix. Even more repressive laws are not the answer. You cannot legislate good behavior.

The British Government has put in place many measures to deal with potential terrorism threats. Closed circuit TV means you have over 300 chances per day to be caught on camera in London. And local governments, desperate for more income, have adopted a draconian fine system for any infraction of the law. Parking tickets start at $150. Leaving your garbage unsorted or with the lid of the garbage can open can elicit a fine. Be a day late paying your property tax and the fine is around 40%. It makes for a very confrontational mindset. People like my 90-year-old mother, hate opening their mail because it will contain threats from the utilities and other companies that she deals with. These used to be reserved for the reminder invoice. Now they’re standard. Government offices are plastered with signs telling you that threatening or abusive behavior towards government officials will be prosecuted. When did those reserved, polite British people begin to threaten and abuse people they voted for?

Growing up in this sort of world is bound to take its toll on young people. Instead of looking forward to college and work, many of them spend their days trying to collect ASBO’s. These are Anti-Social Behavior Orders – a sort of legal parenting done by the police for kids aged 10 and up. You can get an ASBO for yelling at the neighbors, throwing bottles or otherwise behaving inappropriately in public.

And now we can add economic distress, government cutbacks, and cell phones to the mix, and suddenly there’s an excuse to start fighting the police, setting fire to cars and busses, torching shops, smashing glass and looting.

The 21st century has overwhelmed a Britain that was chugging along using the mores of the 1950’s as a benchmark. The government has tried to legislate a new way of behaving. Instead, it has simply given people an excuse to rebel against measures that would seem repressive in a dictatorship.

Okay, enough. I’m beginning to sound like one of those old farts…