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Art Callaham: We recycle because it's the right thing to do

October 14, 2012|By ART CALLAHAM

Before you read further, answer for yourself: Do you believe that recycling is a good endeavor? Now don’t put in “economical” or “cost effective.” No price tag. Also, don’t “Al Gore” yourself by considering your position on the environment, our children’s future, global warming or the continued existence of three-eyed tree frogs (I just can’t help a small jab at the guy who invented the Internet). A simple yes or no answer please.

If you answered no, then read no further because I expect you are already angry with our local governments within Washington County. Also, I’ve probably heard from you, or one of your personal representatives, at the gas station while you were smoking a cigarette, drinking a 28-ounce coffee (five creams and six packs of sugar) and poking me in the chest and telling me how stupid government is (the cigarette and coffee part is all true; however you were really just poking my ears with uninformed drivel).

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Before I forget, my wife is a Washington County commissioner.

Back to “read no further”: Immediately after you finished your last drag on your “ciggy” (your word, not mine), you flicked said ciggy into the parking lot and barely missed the employee who was sweeping up all your friend’s ciggys from earlier bombastic pontifications about the stupidity of recycling, war and peace, the price of pork belly futures or the national debt. Heck, I bet you even emptied out your truck’s ashtray before you left the parking lot because there were just too many ciggys on the street at the stoplight where you emptied it yesterday. So if this is you, please, read no further.

If you’ve missed it I’ve begun to equate recycling with litter. Why? Because I remember the nation’s “war on litter” that started in the early 1960s. Headed up by Lady Bird Johnson (you remember her; “plant a shrub or a bush today and help our nation stay clean” — or something like that), children, teenagers and young adults were brainwashed on almost a daily basis about the evils of litter.

My dad was a smoker: two, three packs a day, Kool Regulars, unfiltered and laden with menthol (I was sure that he chose that brand to insure his kids would never filch a pack and take up the habit). He could roll down the side window on our ’62 Dodge Coronet (no electric windows in our cars), flick the nub of that Kool out the window, roll up the window and continuously navigate the curvy section of W.Va. 13 on the way to our home on “Tunnel Hill.”

When he’d go for the nub, my brother and I, in perfect stereo, would relate the latest Lady Bird Johnson speech on litter (this was really tough on Dad as he was the only registered Republican in our county — well, maybe there were a few others). Short story, it worked, the war on litter spawned a generation or two of litter-hating Americans. America was cleaned up.

Remember if you are a no answerer, read no further. The biggest gripe I hear regularly, other than the fact that recycling may cause cancer in laboratory rats — just kidding — is that it “ain’t free no more” or “those containers are ugly,” or the “recyclers just take the stuff to the dump anyway and the government — there goes my wife again — is making money on the taxpayers.”

Well, my tongue is clearly in my cheek and if you’ve read this far please allow me to summarize the realities of recycling. First, recycling has never been free and never will be completely free. Even if you use the “free recycling service” (and there is some provided by a local not-for-profit) you will still have the cost of getting the recycling to the collection point. Recycling has and will continue to have a cost; however, if you answered yes to my initial question you will continue to pay that cost because recycling, like eliminating litter, is a good endeavor.

Second, the recycling containers may be ugly; however, the future cost of the clean-up of landfills may make the beauty issue a moot point — power lines are not beautiful, but I bet you’re not willing to take them down and give up electricity.

And finally, no one, including the government, is making money on recycling. If they were, I’d not write this column and I’d be driving a Lamborghini instead of a Jeep.  Recycling is simply a good thing to do!

Art Callaham is a community activist and president of the Washington County Free Library Board of Trustees.

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