I stopped off at the grocery store on my way home this afternoon. As I was paying in the express lane, a homeless-looking white guy in his 40s walks into the store and asks the check-out clerk abruptly, "Uh, where are the recycling guys today?"
That question surprised me. I was expecting him to ask for a pack of cigarettes or something, or maybe for some spare change. I was not expecting an environmentalist. I looked at him more closely. Was he just "lifestyle dirty" and not, as I had first thought, "hobo dirty"? No, looking at him again, he was definitely "hobo dirty." A cloud of cigarette smoke surrounded him. He was also drunk or high, I'm pretty sure, because he was walking and then standing there with this unnatural rigidity and as he spoke he enunciated each word very precisely. It was like he thought that everyone in the store was giving him some sort of unspoken DUI field test with our eyes.
Anyway, the check out guy answers him wearily, "No, not today. The recycling is tomorrow, Tuesday. It's Monday today." With that, the guy turned and departed in his cloud of smoke without uttering another word. After he was gone, the check-out clerk turned back to me and explained, "we host a recycling truck here in our parking lot every Tuesday. They pay cash for bottles and cans. I'm all for recycling, but every Tuesday the store is full all day long of drug addicts and street people. They're the only ones who use it. We call it 'Tweaker Tuesday'."
As I walked out of the store, I started thinking about what that meant for our local recycling policy. Since we now have bi-weekly curbside pick-up of recycling at every house, I just toss everything in my recycling bin, without thinking that by doing so I am forgoing reimbursement of the 5 or 10 cent fee that I am charged for each one at the point of purchase. My laziness, I suppose, then turns that (reimbursable) fee into a tax. On top of that, because the reimbursement infrastructure still remains in place, it's a tax that effectively subsidizes the drug habits of the meth addicts and street people of my nearby beach community.
Ah, the law of unintended consequences.