Now that our trash is picked up biweekly, I find myself tempted to toss questionable items into the recycling bin, even though they don't belong there. Of course, I'd never actually do this—but what about others? Will we turn into a city of trash cheats?
— Terry L.
I dunno, Terry—on the one hand, you raise a legitimate concern. On the other, I hate to give this idea to all the folks who haven't thought of it yet.
Still, a true journalist prints the truth no matter how many planets it destroys. (Join me next week as I explain how to mutate common bread mold into a deadly airborne plague using simple household chemicals!)
It's undeniable there is a perverse incentive to pretend that, dang it, you just didn't know those plastic take-out clamshells (or Styrofoam, or lead-lined jugs of dioxin) weren't recyclable. After all, the main advantage of being an American is everyone believes you when you play dumb, so why not? Who's gonna know?
Then again, there's also a perverse incentive to roofie the mailman and pimp him out at an Insane Clown Posse show. In both cases, you wouldn't do it, though, because it's wrong and you'd feel like a jerk.
If this touching faith in the human conscience seems a little naïve to all you environmentalists out there (not to mention all you mailmen), I can only say that so far, bad-faith recycling hasn't been a problem.
"Portland has a cleaner recycling stream than much of the country," says Jocelyn Boudreaux of the Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability. "Portlanders are skilled recyclers, and understand that contamination can send perfectly good recyclables to the landfill."
So don't recycle that clamshell—put it in the trash. Then mash it all down with your foot, like a good citizen.