If you had asked me, I would have ventured a guess in the 70% range. My logic would have been something like this. Recycling is fairly easy these days. Many communities have curbside pickup which requires no more effort than tossing the bottles into a bin in the garage from the doorway and taking them out to the curb once a week. Even big urban areas like Philadelphia now have curbside pickup. We have blue recycling buckets in our offices. Most parks, malls, sports and concert venues, and other public places have well-placed and plentiful recycling bins.
If recycling were this easy everywhere, my guess would have been 90%. But it isn’t. There are some areas without curbside pickup, where residents have to save their plastic bottles over time and bring them to a recycling center. A hassle? Sure. But difficult? No. We’re not talking about toting heavy bales of newspaper. We’re talking about nearly weightless plastic bottles. So what would be a reasonable rate in non-curbside areas? I don’t know. 50%? 33%? Given human nature, and to more dramatically assert my point, let’s go with the lower figure.
I decided to do some research. According to earth911.com, about half the country has curbside pickup, although that number has certainly grown since that information was released. But assuming a 50/50 split, where half the country should be at 90% and half should be at 33%, the average works out to be just over 60%, not too far from my gut estimate.
So what would drive the number below 60%? People being lazy or uninformed about recycling, people with the best of intentions occasionally leaving a bottle behind somewhere, and…and…that’s pretty much all I could come up with.
31% is patently shameful. Recycling plastic bottles is not a difficult task. Put a recycling bin where it’s convenient in your house. Teach your children good habits. Get out of your office chair and throw the bottle in the bin down the hall. If you’re somewhere that doesn’t have a recycling bin, put the bottle in your car and take it home. It’s really easy.
The plastic bottle recycling rate has increased only marginally over the last few years. I see where we might be satisfied with incremental year to year gains if this rate was in the 80%-90% range, but at 31%, incremental doesn’t cut it. It’s time for a quantum leap forward.
Come on, everybody.