Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle– Repent?

I've been back in Eugene for a couple of months. Even though the cultural distance between this town and my "home culture" in the Denver suburbs is not so vast as some of the cultural canyons I've crossed, it's having the same effect on me, psychologically, as a journey to the other side of the planet. It's taking me by surprise and sometimes delighting me, sometimes bringing out my worst. 

My new home is right next to a riverside trail that's popular with walkers, runners, and bikers. Quite a few bikes that roll past have small carts attached. I've seen some of bicyclists unloading the contents of their carts at a local recycling center. "How cool is that?" I thought, "Not only do they recycle, but they go so far as to bring their recyclables in by human power instead of relying on gas and oil." Environmentalism runs strong around here.

Then today as I was coming home from a run I saw a shabby-looking cyclist of indeterminate gender in front of my neighbor's house, going through her garbage bin.

What?! These people aren't just recycling their own stuff, they're actually scavengers? Did this person go through mine, as well? Privacy also runs strong around here, and this I did not like. As my self-righteous disdain began to swell, I watched the neighbor's car pull into the drive. She got out of her car and said hello to the scavenger. "Is it OK if I take your bottles and cans?" the cyclist asked the homeowner, in a sweet, feminine voice. "Sure, no problem," came the reply with a smile, "Help yourself."

I'd forgotten Oregon has a deposit system for bottles and cans. It take a bit more work than curbside recycling but there's the added payoff, so those who don't do it will often pass on their cans, one way or another, to those who do. 

How would you respond? Would it bug you if someone went through your garbage? Or would you, perhaps, see it as a community service or an asset you're glad to share with others?

» Previous posts reflecting on life in Eugene include Far Out and Solid and  Leaves.


Gretchen said...

I've seen our garbage man dig through our dumpster (which we have since we're out in the country). I was rather irritated...and desperatly thinking about what I had in there! But, I guess "one man's trash is another man's treasure"!!!

Megan Noel said...

Welcome to the West Coast! I don't know if you have noticed because the law was recently passed but now restaurants were you bus your own tables have separate cans for garbage, compost, and recycling. they are required to compost everything that meets those requirements, as are residents. they are working on a new setup for condos to compost - we have 2 bins - but i find it awkward because i'd have to carry everything down to the garage.. recycling and trash can go into the chute / trash room and there is one on each floor.