by Amy Martin (c)
An aluminum can, emptied of its fluid contents, is tossed into a recycling bin and taken away. Is it a profound act of community? A spiritual ritual? An ecological cure-all? Or just another version of garbage in and garbage out?
The clattering of a plastic jug in a recycling bin rings with values that some long for as a nation, like the maturity of knowing that something out of sight isn’t necessarily out of mind. In a country that seems to glorify irresponsibility, to recycle is to accept that your personal action or lack of action — not recycling paper or not buying recycled paper — has a definite reaction — clear-cutting forests — sometimes half-way across the globe, sometimes in your own state.
Every time a container or piece of paper is diverted from trash can to recycling bin, it prompts us to question the throwaway society we’ve become. It suggests that maybe, just maybe, if we stop tossing away all this garbage, we might not cast aside our pets and children, our downtowns and historic areas, our elderly and poverty stricken, when they become hard to manage.
In small and subtle ways, these concepts filter into our consciousness each recycling pilgrimage we make, the toss of an item into the bin becomes a kinetic ritual of humanity and faith. By taking an extra moment to concede that your life can impact others, recycling is an act of exquisite consideration which embraces community, a way of confirming that we are all interconnected in this web of life.