Louise ‘Louie’ Mann is a retired teacher living in Arkansas. She has also managed recycling centers, taught recycling literacy, and has helped keep single stream recycling from replacing curb-sort recycling in Fayetteville, Ark. She is the director of Waste Reduction Resources.
She has written a guest editorial for the Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette, “Being Dirty Costs: Dump Single-Stream Recycling.”
“I blame single-stream for the increased cost to customers…Single-stream was instituted by major garbage-hauling companies as their attempt to regain market share lost to transparent volunteer-run recycling programs in the 1980s,” she writes.
The elimination of transparency came along with the single stream system, limiting people’s knowledge about recycling. Citizens were not even aware that materials were being shipped to countries lacking worker safety and environmental laws. “But now we do know….President Harry Truman once was reported to have said, ‘Give Americans the facts and they’ll do the right thing,’…. Given honest information, I believe U.S. citizens will put the health of people and the planet above convenience.”
While product redesign and legislation will help, we must also recreate a society that thinks beyond convenience. Reducing waste and reusing products is the first step. Mann wants to make recycling programs transparent by passing transparency ordinances. Single-stream might never have taken hold had such laws been in place.
Also see Mann’s Garbage Glossary.