I recently came across a post on my Facebook feed that grabbed my attention. It was this article titled 10 Shocking Photos That Will Change How You See Consumption And Waste
By the Huffington Post 03/29/2014. Of course, the photos weren’t new to me, and probably aren’t shocking to many of the Reverse Logistics Magazine readers since this is something we as Reverse Logistics professionals are aware of and trying to prevent – but it’s always a good reminder to see these images and encourage us in our work so that we can prevent more of this.
A year ago I moved to a town just outside of Cleveland, Ohio. Coming from California, it has been an adjustment; not just with the winter we’ve had; but different people, neighborhoods, and policies. As I began making new friends and acquaintances I became aware of a community hobby called “Tree Lawning”. Basically, when people put their trash out, they can put ANYTHING out by their city-provided trash cans. It’s doesn’t have to fit in the can, and I have seen items as big as mattresses and couches put out on the edge of their lawn. The “Tree Lawning” part is when other locals drive around the night before the trash gets picked up, and look for items placed by people’s trash that they might find useful – “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure”. Unfortunately, if you are caught taking someone else’s trash, you get ticketed with a high fine (due to identity theft reasons in searching through someone’s trash). Perhaps it is tolerated here, as I am aware of many people who still take the risk and search for treasures (many of them take furniture and toys, clean them and refurbish them and either use them for themselves, or sell it making themselves a little extra money). The idea is smart – since it’s a great way to reuse these items instead of leaving them in a landfill; unfortunately the city hasn’t yet seen the advantage of this and still makes it illegal. I’ve heard of other cities that have certain weeks assigned for people to place their items and others to come take “legally”. Perhaps, this is something my city might take into consideration in the future.
At the same time that I moved in and saw all these items on people’s lawns, it made me smile. I mentioned to a friend – “wow this is great, how easy it is to get rid of stuff here”. The city picks up these big items, for free? And removes them, for free? In California, you could not leave anything that didn’t fit in your city-provided trash can. In order to get rid of big bulk items you sold them yourself through ebay/craigslist, etc., or you gave them away through a local listing or a thrift store for resale, or had to take them to a city dump, and then PAY money to get rid of the item. As time has gone by, I realized this area isn’t as environmentally conscious as what I was used to. Yes, they are picking up these items for free, but they are just taking them to a landfill and just dumping it. As an environmentally conscious human being, who takes these matters seriously, I now frown when I see the amount of trash piled on people’s lawns even from just one street, waiting to go to a landfill. I know I need to get involved in the city waste program and encourage more recycling and waste prevention.
We all know Reverse Logistics is more than just recycling, but ultimately all the practices that we are trying to fix and improve are not only saving company money but also preventing more of these waste pile-ups.