Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Dumpsters Tell All

You can tell a lot about a building by taking a walk around back and looking at the dumpsters. What's the ratio of trash dumpsters to those for recycling? At this apartment building in the neighborhood, Nassau Arms, the ratio is 1 to 2, meaning there's an emphasis on recycling.

At the Princeton High School, the ratio is 3 trash dumpsters to only 1 for recycling. This a pretty poor ratio, since it suggests that three times as much gets landfilled as gets recycled.

The disparity in recycling performance may reflect the different uses of the buildings, residential vs. school, or the contrast in people's behavior in private and public places. In general, people seem to be much better about recycling at home than in public, where there seems to be little sense of personal responsibility to keep trash and recyclables separate. But the low recycling rate at the high school may also reflect a lack of ongoing promotion of recycling. In a public space, all the steps in the recycling chain must function well. All participants--students, staff and custodians--need to do their part. With all those "moving parts", this living system of recycling can't just be instituted and left to run unattended. It takes ongoing monitoring and intervention to fix breakdowns, and that sort of ethic and sense of responsibility must come from the leadership.

No comments: