What to do with old potatoes?
Our City is disappointed in us. We are not recycling, not as much as we could to meet provincial targets. And the City has opted for the stick, not the carrot (nor both). Just the stick. Eventually we will be fined for including recyclable material in our garbage. We’ll be hammered if we toss our waste in a ditch.
No question we can and should be recycling more. It’s our own daily environment we are fouling. No question recycling belongs at home – although a comprehensive campaign would include incentives (and penalties) for manufacturers and retailers who over-package their products. The plastic-bag campaign is a model, and includes carrots and sticks. We now pay for formerly-free plastic grocery bags (the stick), but we’re given an alternative, re-usable grocery bags, minimally priced and sometimes free (the carrot).
For recycling and general waste-reduction, the City seems to have given up on carrots. No more unlimited garbage bags at the curb (a big carrot). Now we pay for bags above a set number. Free and unlimited garbage pickup was a carrot because it enticed us to use garbage bags – and not pitch our paper cups and pop cans out the car window or leave our lanes, sidewalks, ditches, beaches and parks littered with paper and plastic. The carrot worked, and included a stick, a fine for littering.
Why such battles in the first place? Why we are not more responsive to public-interest campaigns? Too much noise in the marketplace to hear anything? Too busy to pause and think? Inadequate information reach?
Consider recent public-interest campaigns; there was a big issue earlier this summer to limit wasting city-treated water. There’s the use of pesticides. There’s speeding (especially in school zones and residential streets), smoking in public, noisy mufflers, weed-suppression, loud music... the list is long.
The key to all these campaigns, separating successful from not, is getting the public engaged. Getting people to actually understand each issue – and then to act in desirable ways. Even today, many people do not understand the problem with our landfills filling up and with ground-water pollution. Spreading that understanding is key, and it ought to be the front-line effort. Why isn’t it?
And now we are about to face another big social change with the legalization of cannabis. What can we do, where, and what not? Why hide this on a website?
Public information campaigns, public education, at the start of all of these campaigns seems not rocket-science. Change needs explaining and the benefits need clarification, otherwise the authorities will always be rowing against the current. All the sticks, all the policing and fines, need to be explained. Public acceptance and support is achievable; we do know how to stimulate public engagement.
Sustained, all-platform information campaigns have proven successful. From AIDS and SARS to various flu epidemics, fire prevention, even staying in school -- these campaigns have taught us that more explanation is essential and is productive. Even for composting week-old potatoes.