Habits are hard to break unless people believe there are good reasons to make a change.
I began picking up litter with my fellow Cub Scouts in 1953. I was part of a movement to make littering illegal, and although it took some time to get a state law, and at first there was no penalty, now nearly everyone knows not to throw things out the car windows. Recycling is a similar struggle. I’ve been preaching recycle forever. Not necessarily for ecological reasons, but more for economical, aesthetic and pragmatic reasons:
1. I’m being taxed, and I’m paying for it whether or not I participate.
2. The more people who participate, the greater the possibility that the system might actually work and generate jobs and money.
3. The more valuable recycling materials become, and the more customary their handling becomes, the less will end up in the street and dump.
4. We’ve got to do something with it, and grouping and collecting is our temporary solution, so be a good citizen and participate.
The problem with recycling is that nobody owns it. There are no billboards, no public service announcements, no encouragements or statistics or goals to reach. There are no programs in the schools and not enough public bins in the parks and public spaces … and I’m afraid there is no penalty for being a trashy person.
Before we embark on a new direction involving many more parts and burdens to consumers and retailers (“Bottles pile up in trash,” Jan. 14), we should ask ourselves: “Are the same 40 percent of the people who now just chuck everything in the garbage going to change for a dime they’ve already spent?”
I would hope we could redouble our efforts to get people to participate for good old God and country and our grandchildren before we invest more time and effort in another program with doubtful efficacy.
John Crivits lives in St. Paul
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