This I Believe

Chee-Ming - Queens, New York
Entered on August 13, 2007
Age Group: 18 - 30
Themes: environment

“Recycle This Belief”

I’ll walk miles just to find a designated bin for my soda can. When I go jogging, I’ll pick up neglected plastic bottles along my route for proper disposal later. I’ll even throw my roommates’ junk mail into the paper-only basket before they get a chance to see them.

So I guess we’ll never know if they “won ten million dollars.”

I believe in recycling. It’s my way of combining respect for Mother Earth with my preference for minimizing waste, keeping life simple and clean.

I used to not care as much, but then I had roommates, and saw the trash piles grow exponentially. How could few people create so much junk? What were we doing wrong? The media’s increased coverage on living green helped answer my questions, but it also made me see the rampant neglect around me. Rather than ignore other people’s failure to recycle, though, I decided to take action.

For example, I started a recycling program in my apartment building. Multi-lingual signs, stickers, and bins aligned the walkway as a constant reminder for my fellow tenants, but no one followed the simple rules: paper did not go with metal; you couldn’t recycle Styrofoam; Jolly Ranchers were not made of glass. I ended up sorting what should had been sorted already, and spent extra time digging through the trash to rescue an additional item or two.

At work, I carefully placed my recyclables into designated bins provided by my company. But in the evening the cleaning woman carted by, took each bin, and dumped them into one enormous trash bag. Corporate responsibility my butt! Since placing multi-lingual reminders here wasn’t proper business practice, I stuffed as many recyclables into my backpack as I could to take home instead.

At times it feels overwhelming. As I walk through the city streets, I see thousands of bottles, cans, and newspapers, all deserving a better resting place. I know I’m doing what I can to help save this world, but sometimes I feel like Batman without his utility belt, or Robin.

Sure, millions recycle, but I think only when it’s convenient for them. The other billions simply don’t care, or have other things to worry about. Excuses like these only strengthen my belief. My doing good may not be much, but at least it’s something.

My parents’ neighborhood recycling program has abolished paper collection, due to costs. So when I visit them, I spend an afternoon driving through town looking for a solution, and find a lone paper bin five miles away, hidden behind a soccer field. A car pulls up next to mine as I throw my parents’ boxes, magazines, and junk mail into the empty dumpster. An elderly woman gets out and begins adding her own paper contributions.

She and I don’t need to speak, and don’t need to acknowledge our present disguises. Because I’m Batman, she’s Robin, and this is what we believe. It’s a thankless job, but someone’s got to do it.