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September 4, 2017: Recycling Sorting: Being Mindful

After a while, there is a rhythm to the job at hand: volunteers out, volunteers in, recyclables in, recyclables out. During the time when there are people in the recycling are, I interact and coordinate efforts. And I take care of loose ends when no one is around.

I’ve been looking at the multitude of tasks that at are involved in this job from Larry’s perspective. Larry does the early shift and I do the later one. We have some overlap; I go to work early if it’s going to be a busy day.

Larry has worked in the recycling sorting area as a supervisor for a number of years. This is the perfect job for him because he’s so hands-on. In addition to dealing with recyclables, Larry does numerous other tasks. Lately he’s been painting the recycling barrel lids and using stencils, painting Recycle on the lids. He has a very neat and tidy covered area adjacent to the main shed – it’s a combination workshop/drying area.

I am not hands on. I am organized and able to prioritize. While this has its own merits, this is also limiting. This is why I very much value what Larry is doing.

Larry’s high degree of focus combined with his concern makes me want to do a better job. If say, he tells me that a number five plastic Alaska Soda Jerk cup is in with the number two containers, I nod and make a mental reminder to put it in the correct bag. Why should this matter? This is not a question that has been coming to mind. For Larry, in indicating that a container is in the wrong area, has indirectly be telling me that our efforts are for naught if we do things in a mindless fashion.

A few years back I would have let some things go. For instance, the other day I inadvertently poured a garbage can full of plastic bottles into the aluminum can collection bag. This time I unhooked the bag and dug those bottles out and got them into the right bin. I do not know what would have happened on the other end, had the bottles gone through with the cans. Perhaps it would have been okay. But then again, the plastic bottles may have gotten caught in the baler. So I left nothing to chance. Removing the bottles, one by one, was an onerous task in that it was time-consuming. And I had other things to do. The cardboard was piling up next to the dumpster and the three groups of volunteers that were out were due to come back in. But I did it. And I felt good about doing it.

I later mentioned my slip up Larry, and with a sidelong smile he said “I once did that.” This made me feel better about my moment of inattentiveness. And I was pleased to have taken a moment to deal with what may or may not have been an inconsequential problem.

But here is the catch. It’s the concentric circle theory. If I’m mindful, as Larry is, then others will catch on in the way I have caught on from him. If what I and consequently others are doing comes to be, there will be no need for a future recycling sorting area.

Next: 245. 9/5/17: Fair Enough

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