David Brownman

If I Were a Recycling Manager, What a Difference I Would Make

This is a piece I wrote for the city of Houston's Public Service Recognition Week in 2010. It ended up winning me first prize and a nice ceremony in the library, which was neat.


"Oh, just grab a bottle of water, honey. We can carry it in our pocket, drink it, and then just toss it out somewhere along the way." This conversation is heard in my house all too often. In America, the most wasteful country in the world, Houston regularly finds itself at the bottom of the recycling list. However, all is not lost: if I were a Recycling Manager, I would make recycling easy and fun, sending the city on its way to a greener life.

"Mom, shouldn’t you recycle that?" "Well, yeah, but I haven’t seen a bin for hours, and there’s a trash can right here..." When walking around the city of Houston, the city has done well to make sure that trash cans are widespread and plentiful, but they haven’t done as admirably in terms of recycling bins. In San Fransisco, most cans have a green recycling compartment attached to the top. Also, their trash service picks up household recycling for free, encouraging recycling in the home. I would work with urban planners in the construction of new parks to include recycling bins. Just as vital, I would work towards the city being updated with more of a green mindset in current city areas and home waste disposal. We in Houston can follow California’s example without much trouble, and more than that, we can lead the way through the future.

"Make sure to grab one for your little sister too. Oh, she’s got a reusable one already? Good for her." As optimistic as putting recycling bins everywhere and everyone becoming good, recycling people overnight is, that’s not the whole answer; the future of the planet lies within the hands of the children. As recycling director, I would institute widespread instruction on the benefits and eventual ease of recycling all of those milk cartons, juice bottles, soda cans, and cereal boxes. Items that are finished don’t even need to end up in a recycling bin to be recycled. I would encourage art teachers all over the city to promote and pursue sculptures and other such works of art based around discarded plastics and cardboard. Through this, there could be art showings and contests with prize money and proceeds going towards development and execution of more recycling programs. To spread awareness in my programs, I would negotiate the free or reduced price distribution of rugged, reusable water bottles that cut down on disposable bottle use.

"Whoa, so recycling must be important, huh?" Vital, in fact. Every day, over 40,000 pounds of plastic are simply thrown out. Besides being plain wasteful, it’s harming our earth, and frankly, this is the only one we get. Through greater distribution of recycling bins through the city and a much stronger recycling education program in schools around the city, I would help bring recycling to Houston in force if I were a Recycling Manager.


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