Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Recycling, brain cramps, and overload

Clearly the best way to handle this Charlotte recycling bumfuzzle is Monty Python-style:

We need to create jobs, right? Just hire a guy in every neighborhood to walk the streets with a bullhorn. Bring out your recycling! Bring out your recycling! All plastic bottles except #6! No pizza boxes!

It might not be the most efficient idea. But the current plan isn't working so hot.

We're three days into the city's new recycling program, and apparently for some of us it's harder than Final Jeopardy. More than 1,200 people called the city with questions on Monday alone. People are putting out their bins on the wrong day, in the wrong week, with the wrong stuff inside.

This is despite the city attaching instructions to the new bins, sending out at least three notices in the mail, putting the information online, and discussing it at 200 community events.

There are several possible reasons we're still confused:

  • It turns out people throw away ALL their mail, not just the bills.
  • Nobody pays attention to public service announcements about the importance of blah blah blah.
  • Maybe some folks are going by Mayan calendars.
  • Collectively, we're as dumb as a sack of hammers.
You could make an argument for any of those. But here's the real reason: There's just too much junk floating around in our heads right now.

We're not stupid, we're overwhelmed.

Think about all the mental debris you tote around -- logins and passwords to computers and websites, PIN numbers to credit cards and debit cards and ATM cards, the schedule for the kids' ball games and dance lessons, what hours the library's open (hint: not as many hours as it used to be), the faces and names of all those people you see only at the grocery store or the barbershop or at church on Easter. Plus all that long division and high-school Spanish trying not to get sucked down the memory hole.

Not only that, every little device is its own galaxy of choices. I'm pretty sure my cell phone could launch a nuclear sub if I had the right app. The other day I toured a hangar that housed some vintage airplanes. The cockpits didn't look all that more complicated than a universal remote. And pilots don't have to worry about programming the DVR.

In our complicated lives, we need some things to be simple. In Charlotte, garbage and recycling were simple. You rolled out the garbage can and set out the recycling bin on the same day every week. You didn't even have to think about it -- your body did the work on autopilot.

Now there's a new recycling bin, and pickup for that is every OTHER week, even though garbage is still every week, although for most people it's now on a different DAY, and to get it all straight you have to figure out whether you live in the Green Zone or the Orange Zone.

That's not complicated, in and of itself. But piled on top of all the other numbers and maps and codes, it makes us crazy.

In the end, of course, we'll figure it out -- we'll clear out a little corner of our brains (bye-bye, Spanish!) to make room for the new schedule. We're also recycling more stuff, which is good for the planet, so we've got that going for us, which is nice.

But next time, before anybody else rolls out something else to complicate our lives, do us a favor. Spring for the bullhorns.


Anonymous said...

CATS must have a hand in this.

Anonymous said...

I think the Avett Brothers should manage it

Anonymous said...

way too much stuff to process right now...agreed!

Joseph L. Cooke said...

Be a good little sheep and do what socialist fraudsters tell you to do.
- josephlcooke.blogspot

Anonymous said...

We received our notice, I kept it posted next to my calendar. We are designated as "green" weeks.

Today, all my neighbors had their shiny new green recycle bins on the street... We did not. It isn't our week!! (It's after 4 PM and they all are still sitting on edge of the street!)

We read everything that comes into our mail... as I thought everyone else did!??!!

JAT said...

I have to say that at least half the confusion has to be due to kicking the changes off in a holiday week. Can't tell you how many folks I know were just back from the beach or about to go and rushing around trying to figure this stuff out.

Jen said...

Best sighting today - driving north on selwyn between Queens & Providence. Two garbage guys standing at a corner, one pointing down a street, the other holding a map. Discussion ensued. Truck idling. It seems the residents are not the only people confused by the changes!

Anonymous said...

A quick call to 311 could have cleared this up for anybody. Yeah, it's more complex than it used to be, but the City is actually spending LESS to collect MORE recycling. Still, I wish the carts themselves could have been orange or green, but orange carts would have likely jacked up the price paid...

SteelerGrrl said...

Once again Tommy nails it ... we get by being creatures of habit, and most of our processors are already maxed out. It doesn't help that a lot of neighbors just don't talk much anymore. Everyone's on overload.

BTW "I'm pretty sure my cell phone could launch a nuclear sub if I had the right app." has to be the funniest sentence I've read in a long time!

Anonymous said...

The communications received were confusing, and if you went to the website to look up your service date, it only addressed the first recycling date, not the first trash pick up date, leaving me wondering if I was doing the right thing.

Based on our neighborhood, the communciations were mediocre at best. We are a green week with Monday pick-up and there are still green bins out!

I hope the county did not pay an agency for this work. This is what I would have done - two bullets.

1. Your new solid waste pick up day is Monday. This will begin July 5. Pick up will be every week.

2. Your new recycling pick up day is Monday. This will be begin July 12. Pick up will be every other week (indicated by the green week on your calendar).

That is simple. I didn't even receive the first messages, just a vague reminder that left me unsure of what I needed to do (am I green week or orange week!). And, yes, people DO NOT READ!!! So, just make it simple - less is better.

Johnnie Lock said...

Thanks to Joseph Cooke's comment @ 4:04pm. He's raised the issue of the vast conspiracy being foisted upon the citizens of Charlotte. Don't fall for the socialist fraudsters who are trying to get you to recycle. It's just another liberal plot to reuse products and undermine corporate America. Pretty soon they'll be sending those who don't recycle off to 're-education' camps led by Nancy Pelosi. It's a complicated plot, but Joe has got it figured out. Listen to him before the feds get to him.

Anonymous said...

My "day" has been Friday, forever and ever amen. Except now it's Monday. Which also happened to be a Co. holiday but I took a guess and rolled my gray bin out, leaving the green one for next week. Most of my neighbors green bins are still sitting at the curb. Oh well....Monday is coming.

Unknown said...

That card was about as hard to understand as the unemployment extension tiers! I don't recall seeing the map! all i remember is it said that the pickup starts on july 5 and the new day was wed. my WHOLE neigborhood has it wrong! where was this color coded map? on the INSIDE of the little card? hahahahhahha

tommy tomlinson said...

Jen: Good to know the customers aren't the only ones confused.

JAT: I think you're right about the holiday. I always forget that they do garbage pickup on most holidays.

Edwark: It's always good to know that I (and the Avetts) have given your life some meaning.

Anonymous said...

I have been counting down the days to the week I could start using my big recycling bin! So excited, anticipating that week when I would no longer have to sort, break down, separate, add bags to the red bin . . . oh so excited! And yep, while I got my "new" garbage day right, the recycling bin sat, and sat, and sat. I got the date wrong, doggone it! When my mailings said I could start using my new bin the week of July 5th, thought I was good to roll it out! Nope, fill it, but don't roll it out till next week.

No biggie, Greenie will be out there again next week! And who really cares if I or my neighbors get it wrong at first? We're recycling folks . . . go with the flow!

Anonymous said...

I got the mailer and the info on the green rollout.

I read and kept both.

Late last week, I checked again.

Yep, Wednesday and orange.

Everyone on my street did the same thing.

Most people really are dumber than a sack of hammers. Your other 3 bullets are correct, too.

Stop processing junk like The Bachelor and Big Brother and you'll be fine.

Provided you can still read.

Anonymous said...

"Stop processing junk like The Bachelor and Big Brother and you'll be fine." Priceless. If people paid attention to things that matter maybe they would not be so confused. It is amazing the number of people who say "I don't take the paper and did not see the notices."

At least in a few weeks they can start to figure out to do whatever their smarter neighbors do with trash and recycling.

recycle85 said...

Funny blog! Charlotte is going to get through this. Beautify your recycling bin with a lovely decal:

Misty said...

One reason there were multiple mailings was that one of the mailing had incorrect information. We had to call and confirm our first collection day because our "corrected" postcard had just a blank space where the date was supposed to be printed. Information overload is a problem for me on a daily basis, but I think the main confusion on this issue stemmed from poor communications.