Recycling bins dupe visitors, say employees

Here is an example of stories heard often, but seldom substantiated – that the public work hard to sort recyclables, only to have them unsorted and landfilled. This from in Montana, USA.

Along the deep blue shores of Glacier Park’s signature lake, inside each and every room at the Lake McDonald Lodge, sit two small but carefully labelled trash baskets. The greyish-brown one is for garbage, the blue one for aluminium cans and other recyclables. You’d expect that, really, what with being in a national park and all.

But the strange thing is, when staff collect the garbage and the cans, both bins are pitched into the same Dumpster, hauled to the same landfill.

How is it that bins labelled “cans only” wind up mixed in with the rest of the trash?

“It’s a problem. I’m trying to work that out myself,” said Scott Cook. Cook is location manager at the lodge, his first year working that position for Glacier Park Inc. GPI is the private company that contracts to run the lodges and other visitor services in Glacier Park. The company has a procedure and a policy regarding garbage and recycling, said director of operations Leon Stiffarm, and neither include chucking the baby out with the bath water. “I don’t know specifically what’s happening at Lake McDonald,” Stiffarm said. “If the recyclables are getting into the right bin, they should be getting to the recycling centre.” But according to the army of young, college-aged employees that makes up GPI’s seasonal staff, the reality on the ground is very different from the official policy.

The problem first popped up in late June when GPI employees Aaron Mitchell and Monica Latham testified at a parkwide hearing that the recyclables were being trashed. Visitors were being duped, they said, by the fact that GPI puts out special recycling bins only to toss the pop cans into the Dumpster later. They testified they and others had complained to their bosses, but nothing had changed. In fact, it doesn’t take long to find a GPI employee at Lake McDonald who has firsthand experience with the Dumpster procedure. Although many are reluctant to see their names in print – they fear losing their posts in the park – they nevertheless tell the same tale.

One young man, a recent arrival from the Midwest, has the dubious distinction of picking up the trash around the lodge once a day. His orders, he said, are clear. “Pitch it all in the Dumpster. It seems kind of ironic; I mean, we’re in a national park,” he said. He couldn’t believe it when he first took his orders, he said, and so he asked for clarification. He had heard correctly – pitch it.

GPI does pick up cardboard from the kitchen and the camp store, as well as cans from a bin outside the camp store, hauling the material to a recycling centre in Browning. But the cans in the guest rooms, the cans in the employee break building, the cans scattered around the lodge, he said, are gathered and dumped, blue basket or otherwise. Frustrated by management’s lack of response, he said, the employees took it upon themselves to handle recycling. They collected the cans, stashing bags of them in their rooms, in storage closets, wherever they could find a few square feet of empty floor.

Every so often, they pooled some of their own cash to pay an off-duty employee to drive the collection out to a recycler in Columbia Falls.

But they were found out, he said, and management told them they couldn’t stash sticky pop cans in every nook and cranny. Now, the pool of cash collected to pay someone to haul the recyclables is being spent on a Saturday night keg.

Meanwhile, management took care of the problem in the employee break building simply by removing the sign that says “cans and bottles only.” Now, with no sign, all garbage – recyclables included – are chucked in the same garbage bin.

But up in the rooms, the blue baskets remain. “I don’t know what’s happening over there,” s

Ano da Publicação: 2003
Fonte: WARMER BULLETIN ENEWS #23-2003: July 15, 2003
Autor: Kit Strange, Warmer Bulletin
Email do Autor:

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