The article about littering of the scenic Columbia Canal was disturbing, but the accompanying photography by Gerry Melendez added another dimension to the story that is worth exploring. His pictures of the Columbia Canal show an area littered with plastic bottles, aluminum cans, glass bottles and tires - items that all are recyclable. If you think this is an isolated problem, just take a look at the Rocky Creek in MLK Park. It has been recently rerouted and made to look more like a naturally meandering creek, rather than the drainage ditch it resembled before, and already is covered constantly with trash that is mostly recyclable.
Look at Gill's Creek, or where Rocky Creek runs through Olympia. Or the three main rivers themselves, and so on. Littered with recyclables. Not to mention our parks or the land beside our roadways where drink cans and plastic bottles wait for rain to take them to our waterways.
Previous generations would be aghast at our stewardship of the land, not only because of how we carelessly dispose of our trash, but also because of how wasteful we are.
As other areas of the country put more emphasis on recycling and reap cleaner, more efficient cities, we ignore it. Separate bins at public places are rare; those we have often are filled with non-recyclable trash. Richland County recycling stations are difficult to find and don't take paperboard or most plastics. Most businesses don't give us the option to recycle. Most of us don't even separate our recyclables at home. A small city that could be so beautiful and pleasant is instead left with a growing landfill and litter all over the city.
The good news is that we do have a recycling service that visits nearly every home in this city. Every single week. One that we all pay for.
Making it a success would be easy. No one has to join a pro-recycling group or anti-litter campaign, or become an activist. We just have to make an effort to do our part, individually. Do it because it's the patriotic thing to do, not the mandated thing to do.
We also have to let go of the notion that recycling is a far-left, liberal, pie-in-the-sky idea and that anyone who does it is naive or silly. The notion itself is juvenile and causes some people to actually go out of their way to not recycle, as if they're wasting resources for a good cause. Actually, recycling is by definition a conservative idea, as in conserving of resources and landfill space. During the Depression and World War II, it was the patriotic thing to do, and people did it, for the good of the country. It was not a Republican or a Democratic thing. It still isn't.