Bottles and cans are supposed to go in recycling bins, right? We all know that. But somehow they’ve escaped and found their way onto the streets of Riverdale.
On any given day you can find empty bottles and cans partying in groups of two or three on the pedestrian bridge over the Henry Hudson Parkway, on Independence Avenue, in the Spuyten Duyvil playground next to the rock wall or under a bench, or on 236th Street near PS 24, on Johnson Avenue — actually everywhere in our otherwise quiet little village — taking in the sun, hugging a tree, discussing where to go out to eat that night, or enjoying a nap in a comfortable metal garbage can.
To combat this infestation, every time we meet a bottle or can, we must demand that they go back to their recycling bins and stay there. I constantly confront these little pests on the streets and yell at them to go back where they belong.
What’s that, you say? Bottles and cans are inanimate objects that can’t actually go anywhere? Well, then, I ask you, how did they get there?
We all know very well how they got there. Somebody dumped them in these places, like an owner abandoning a dog to the streets.
Throwing cans and bottles away is not just an aesthetic problem for our community. It’s much bigger than that. Every can or bottle you dump on the street, or throw in a garbage can, is going to eventually end up in a landfill and live there for eons beyond our lifetimes. We should be jealous of these little monsters. They can live for thousands of years.
The more cans or bottles we fail to recycle, the faster we fill up our landfills. More space is lost to garbage.
It gets worse. The less we recycle, the more cans and bottles have to be manufactured. That takes energy. The energy required to manufacture a can or bottle adds to the amount of carbon dioxide we put into our atmosphere. While this may not feel like much from any single individual, it adds up.
The American people, the freest in the world, throw out 2.5 million plastic bottles every hour (source: smartplanet.com, author Andrew Nusca). Every piece of plastic ever produced still exists, Smart Planet states. It doesn’t go away. It ends up in landfills and somewhere much worse — as much as I hate to say it, in the ocean. The ocean, where half the oxygen on our planet is produced by little green plants we can’t even see.
What about metal cans? We’ve got to be recycling cans better than plastic bottles, right? Not even close. According to The Aluminum Association: “Every day, more than 100 million aluminum beverage cans are sent to landfills, littered or incinerated in the U.S.” We throw away 1,500 metal cans every second, according to the site thegoodhuman.com. If a can isn’t recycled, a new can needs to be produced. The companies use coal, oil and natural gas to make more cans. That puts more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which as most of us who don’t live on Mars know, makes it far more difficult for us to continue to survive on this planet. Think I’m joking? I wish I were.
“Throwing away a single aluminum can is like pouring out six ounces of gasoline,” states the Aluminum Association, the guys who make this stuff. That’s how polluting it is.
So, if you buy a plastic bottle or can, don’t abandon it to the savageries of the streets, where it may very well join a gang, or much worse!
Be kind to that piece of plastic or metal can. Give it loving care. Take it home and put it in a recycling bin. That can or bottle will be grateful to you. It gets to help someone else drink water or juice or soda.
And, if you see a can or bottle on the street, for God’s sake, please, don’t yell at it. Think about picking it up and recycling it. Do it for your grandchildren, your children, your spouse, you, the ocean, the quality of the air we breathe, your pet gerbil. You won’t earn any gratitude from any living being (except possibly me), but you will have taken one good and important good step for all of us.
Michael Gold is a regular guy who just wants to read Batman comic books all day. But because he has seen all these plastic bottles and metal cans hanging around the neighborhood without jobs, he felt the need to scold everybody in the most embarrassing way he thought possible. The Points of View column is open to all readers.