Well, That’s Embarrassing!

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Courtesy of The Stock Exchange

Recently, I moved into a new municipality that makes recycling part of its trash management program. If you pay for trash removal, recycling comes default as part of the service. Cool.

Even more recently, I got it together to figure out how my new municipality handled mixed office waste. I was told that all I had to do was tie it up or put it into a brown paper bag and set it out with the rest of the trash and the recycler would pick it up.

I re-use everything, so it took me weeks to collect enough office waste to fill up a bag. I print both sides of my copy paper, use the backs of direct mail for printing drafts, and commandeer the backs of envelopes for grocery lists. It takes awhile to actually generate some trash.

Finally, I was ready. I had used and reused until the bag was full. Now I could see my new contribution to the post-consumer waste stream take its rightful place in the world. I set out the bag carefully, opening the top a little so the regular trash guys could see that it was mixed office waste and not mistake it for landfill food.

Later in the morning, I heard the rumble of the garbage collection truck. I looked out the window, curious to watch how they handled the precious cargo. The collector dumped the big black trash cans, set them down, looked at my bag of mixed office waste, and then tossed it in with the rest of the regular garbage. The truck groaned and lurched on.

Seriously, I almost went running down after it.

Later, when the recycling truck came by, I went down and talked to the guy and asked what I’d done wrong. He looked puzzled. “Nothing,” he said. “They aren’t supposed to do that.”

What’s the broader point? It’s great to have a recycling policy, especially business- or corporate-wide. But it’s useless if people don’t know about it or don’t follow the rules. Remember that it’s about chain-of-custody  Employees can handle the waste properly, but if it’s not managed correctly further down the chain, then it’s all for naught.

So do more than just set up a recycling policy. Make sure it’s properly enforced.

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