Saturday, August 26, 2006

Trash, glorious treasure

Due to the insistence of Robert Williams that I include more photos here, and the insistence of the prolific commenter "Anonymous", I will have to talk some trash. Recycling, actually.

You may be used to seeing bins like these, seen on the 4th floor of the International Programs building at Hong Kong Baptist University (HKBU):

But a much more curious recycle bin, found in various places around campus, is in the shape of a flower, like this:

After I got over the fact that there were many different recycling bins here, I was stunned to realize that "laser printer cartridges" and "inkjet cartridges" each warranted a separate slot, alongside "plastic bottles", "cans", and "waste paper". Just how many printer cartridges do people go through around here?

Actually, not many. The rate of erroneous insertions is higher than the actual rate of printer cartridge recycling, as can be seen here:

As we say in the geek world, the signal-to-noise ratio is fairly low here.

I read an article a number of years ago about how various cities had decided to alter their recycling strategies from having lots of separate bins for paper, cans, bottles, etc. to having a single recycling bin. The idea was this: all it takes is one person to get a bit mixed up every now and then, and you still have to hire someone to sort through it all anyway. If it costs the same, and if people are more willing to recycle if it's easier for them, then it makes sense to have just one bin.

And the photo above perhaps justifies their thinking.

But couldn't they have made different divisions? Batteries? Colored vs. white vs. newsprint vs. glossy paper? How'd they decide on these divisions?

The division into five seems appropriate for Hong Kong, given their flag:

And, c'mon, you gotta love that bee. Which apparently stands for "Better Environment Endeavor":

Here's an article from 2003 Newsletter of the San Francisco Department of the Environment on
recycling issues today.


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