You would think that Woodstock would be Recycle City. The town that gave its name to a whole generation of supposedly right-thinking Americans should be a place where something as obviously beneficial as recycling would be second nature by now. And maybe it is. I don’t get to look inside the trash and recycling bins of my neighbors.But what I see taking place at the Woodstock post office, where people’s recycling habits are on display, is disappointing.

In the post office lobby, there are three bins labeled WASTE. They have always been there as long as I can remember, and I’ve had a post office box there for more than three decades. Several years ago, two new containers were added, right next to a table which contains one of the waste bins. They are labeled RECYCLING. They have slots at the top to prevent people from throwing obvious trash into them, but you can still get a thick catalog or a telephone book into one of them without difficulty. I was delighted at the appearance of these containers and I use them for all my junk mail.

So do lots of other people. But not all of us! When I look into the waste bin which is right next to the recycling containers, there is always paper in it. Lots of paper. For a while, I used to fish out paper and put it into the recycling containers, and I still do that sometimes. But I’ve mostly given up.

The openings in the waste bins are larger. It’s easier to throw things into them. If you don’t think about anything, that’s what you would do.

But even the waste bins aren’t enough for some people. Many postal customers use self-seal envelopes and mailers, which require you to remove a strip of slick paper in order to close them. I seldom make a visit to the post office when I don’t see some of these strips lying on the work tables or on the floor. People just drop them carelessly, like smokers dropping cigarette butts.

I also frequently find postal forms, conveniently supplied in dividers on the work tables, left on those tables, or dropped on the floor. Someone who wanted to use one of these forms and accidentally took out two couldn’t be bothered to put the extra one back.

Don’t get the idea that the post office is a neglected place. I frequently see the postal clerks, when they aren’t busy with customers, out in the room picking up things.

Who are the customers who get mass mailings, like notices from the local school district, and leave them on the table for others? Sometimes there are large piles of them. Do people think that somebody else coming to the post office is going to want these notices and won’t get them?

I even know what happens to our local recycled paper. I wipe my ass with it. It’s bought by Marcal, whose paper products I buy whenever I can because they are made from recycled paper and have been for more than half a century. I’m sure Seventh Generation is doing good work, but Marcal has been doing the same things with paper since the guys who run Seventh Generation were born!

Am I over-reacting? Could be, but I’ll bet that in China and Korea you won’t find this kind of negligence and waste. Is that why those countries are whipping our asses economically these days?

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