An idea to improve the Blue/Black Box program

Dear David/LivingLightly:

Much as your film says not to feel guilty, I have to admit that we are not doing everything we can at our house. But, although we have 2 cars (we would argue by the necessity of our work), we did not – and would not – pave our parking spots. We have allowed the hedges and trees around our house to grow up as wind breaks in the winter and cooling sources of shade in the summer. We push our lawn mower and dig the weeds out of the little lawn we keep to prevent our yard from eroding on to the sidewalk. Our garden has never seen pesticides and we allow old stumps to decompose in the garden because they offer shelter to toads and other creatures as the live trees provide nesting places for birds. We keep two composters going all year long, and we recycle through the blue and black box programs. In the spirit of using things to the full end of their lives, our black box has been held together now for years with tape and string.

It is the Blue and Black Box program that would be so easy to improve on. I cannot take credit for the idea. That should go to the founder and advocate for the Blue Box program in Ontario, whose name escapes me, but who was a customer of mine when an environmental group named VCR came to town. What he pointed out was that if every neighbour taking his recycling box to the curb took a few more steps to his left or right he could put the box with his neighbour’s, meaning that the recycling truck would be making one less stop, idling less and making one step in the recycling process more efficient. I promoted the idea to my neighbours first about ten years ago, and have a number of times since. My neighbour to the east bought the idea and can be counted on to pile his recyled waste with mine.

So one neighbour and I have improved the program a little.

But it could be so much better. As my customer from VCR pointed out, if two neighbours from across the street put their recyling boxes with ours, the truck would be stopping two fewer times; and if the whole street did the same with all boxes ending up on one side of the roadway, the truck would be cutting its route in half. Wonderful environmental and economic benefits would ensue if taken from street to neighbourhood to city to province to country and beyond. Socially, as well, because at the end of the day, neighbours have to talk to each other if only to sort out whose box is whose, or to agree to be communists and use only the boxes they require.

Good idea, eh? And from my experience. Once someone’s on the program, a little guilt might keep him there. Guilt’s not all bad. I’d say the idea is worth promoting, at least, if not the guilt.

By the way, I loved your first documentary.

All the best.

James Palmer
Ottawa

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