Had some electronics, old books, cell phones and such that I wanted to dispose of properly. So I was glad to see that a neighboring suburb was hosting a recycling event which coincided with the United Nations’ World Environment Day.
I planned to arrive at the event about two hours before it was to end. Figured it might take about a half hour. As I neared the site, I saw a stream of cars waiting to turn into the parking lot. Drove up into the queue and waited… and waited while the number of cars in line continued to grow. Eventually, a staffer began walking up to each vehicle in the line to tell them that it would take about two hours to get through the recycling event and that she hoped we had enough gas in our cars for the wait.
Ah, the irony! All of us were going to be participating in a green event while idling our cars for hours. According to the California Energy Commission Consumer Energy Center, for every two minutes your car idles, you use about the same amount of fuel as it takes to go one mile. So with a two-hour wait time, I would have wasted approximately enough fuel to go 60 miles. Depending on your car, that could be anywhere from two to four gallons of gas. Now multiply that by the hundreds of cars that were idling at this event.
As soon as I got the word about the wait, I drove out of line and decided to participate in another recycling event later in the year. Figured I saved about three gallons of gas that would have been used to literally go nowhere.
It might be easy to fault the suburb for not preparing properly for this kind of response to the event. But I don’t think that’s the problem. The problem is that these “recycling extravaganzas” are held so very seldom, maybe once a year. So hundreds, maybe thousands, of citizens are piling up their items for an entire year. Then when the event arrives, they descend upon it like a swarm.
The good news is that there are hundreds of people who are consciously disposing and recycling items that would normally head to a landfill. I was certainly encouraged by that. Green is becoming a habit for many, not just an occasional event.
If you are planning to host recycling events for your group or municipality, keep these tips in mind:
- Prepare for High Participation Scenario – The public is interested in doing their part. Make sure you have adequate staffing, waiting areas, collection containers, and traffic control to handle it should that occur.
- Consider Hosting Multiple Events or Continuous Collection – Yes, it is added expense to host multiple events or offer continuously available collection points. But weigh that against the expense, both financial and environmental, of a large recycling event. To figure out the carbon footprint of your event, visit the CarbonFund.org website and use their event calculators.
It is not fair to fault consumers for lack of participation in recycling programs. Green is a habit that must be encouraged and enabled. Make sure your recycling events do just that.
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