Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Precycling Imperative

The city's new recycling bins frustrate me. From what I read in blogs, they frustrate homeowners as well, although for different reasons. Joe or Jayne Homeowner doesn't like them because they don't stack and fit easily next to the back door or just inside the garage; they are intrusive. They take up room that isn't really available. They are in the way.

I dislike them because, while they encourage recycling, they discourage precycling. Precyling allows magazines which have already been read but are still current or interesting to go on to be read by others. It enables brown paper grocery bag reuse. I've read derogatory online comments regarding the rescue and reuse of magazines and other paper materials in collection bins on the basis that it is cheating the city or the recycling company. I doubt that that's true. City workers are not going to sort through paper trash to pull out usable magazines or other material to sell and if they are selling the paper by weight or volume the small amount of magazines or paper bags removed by precycling wouldn't noticeably impact the weight or volume of material received.

The new bins are huge and they have lids, both of which discourage precycling. Material is not visible or even within reach in some cases. The act of opening a bin in front of a residence feels a little too much like invasion while pulling magazines and bags from an open yellow bin never did.

Fortunately, since the City of Portland has become increasingly anal about trash, the various colored bins cannot hold just any material and so stuff that is not organic, paper, glass or composed of certain types of plastic cannot be put into them. Clothing, mechanical devices, furniture, etc. still find their way to the curb where they can be claimed and gently ushered into a future that may involve cleaning, repair and rehoming.

In New York City, city lots sprout small flea markets and trading and repurposing fairs on the weekend. I'm not sure why this really hasn't taken off in Portland.

Meanwhile, I'm overcoming some of my reluctance to open the new bins and delve for treasures.

Behold: a link to a New York Times Q/A exchange in its column, The Ethicist, titled, "The Recycling Thief." Author Randy Cohen is "pro-foraging." Yea!

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