Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Recycling Idiocy

Yesterday, a gang of sanctimonious wannabe social engineers took the trash can out of my office.

We first heard about this last Thursday, when we hard the faculty talking about an email that they had received from some professor in the Marketing department. The grad students never got this email until one of our professors forwarded it to us:

Next week (April 12-16), they will conduct a _pilot_ project, consisting of three important elements:

1. Signs and posters will be placed in all classrooms encouraging recycling

2. Additional recycling and trash stations will be placed on all floors in Brackett and Sirrine (Plastic Bottles/Aluminum Cans/Paper/Trash Containers side-by-side)

3. Trash cans will be removed from all classrooms, and most offices (they will stay in kitchens and bathrooms). We recognize this will cause you some inconvenience but as noted above, a major part of this initiative is to get us all to rethink the way we dispose of waste. The trash cans will be returned to classrooms and offices at the end of the week.

Note the Orwellian language-twisting of listing 'signs and posters' as the first 'important element' when they know that signs and posters are meaningless and that the real goal here is to try to change people's behavior by making their lives less convenient. They want to force us to go out into the hall every time we throw something away. If we do this, it will reduce the marginal cost of throwing things in the 'proper' container.

This doublespeak continues on the signs that are posted, which say that there are recycling stations 'for your convenience' when the whole point of the exercise is to inconvenience people.
This announcement was met with much anger and derision, and half-serious plots on how to express our unhappiness and get back at the people who messed with our lives in this manner.

The people who come up with this kind of junk have zero respect for the time of others. They think that inconveniencing us is a 'free' way to get recycling done. This is nonsense. A typical professor in our college earns about $120,000 a year, which means that his or her time is worth about $60 an hour. This scheme will cost each professor, at minimum, ten minutes of wasted time, for a total cost of $10. Even if people cooperate and recycle, instead of just dumping everything in the normal trash out of spite, that is an incredibly high price to pay for a little bit of extra recycling.

As an aside, the benefits of recycling are vastly overhyped. See here for the full story, which I will not repeat here except to say that the environmental and energy costs of most post-consumer recycling are greater than the costs of using landfills.

The best way to help the environment is to simply consume less. I do not purchase cans or bottles, and rarely print things. I refill my water bottle with water from the fountain. In general, I generate an extraordinarily low amount of waste and have a very small ecological footprint; I would wager that my environmental credentials are far better than those of the people doing this meddling.

Anyway, one of the first things I did was to take all of the spare trash bags out of my trash can. The custodians always leave a pile of empty bags at the bottom of each can, so it is easier to replace the bags after removing the trash. I figured that, if they took the can, I would at least have trash bags on hand.

My office mate then hid the trash can under his desk, hoping that they would not see it to take it away. But on Monday, we came in and saw that they had removed it anyway. But I still had the trash bags.

My office mate, not to be dissuaded, went out into the corridor, grabbed the aluminum can recycling receptacle, and put it in our office where the trash can used to be. At the end of the week, we will empty it and toss it somewhere, possibly right in front of the office door of the marketing professor who initiated this nonsense.

Only two other people, all on our floor, displayed this kind of chutzpah. The rest of the recycling things are still in place, blocking the corridors. I do not know how many people have simply supplied their own trash cans, or taken other workaround measures. One professor was joking about reverting to medieval times and simply throwing everything out the window.

One of many annoying things is that this has nothing to do with Marketing. It is social engineering, the use of power to try to achieve a desired result by changing people's environment. Businesses do not have the ability to mess with people's lives like this. The students involved with this are learning nothing except bad habits and abuse of power.

This will accomplish nothing, except cementing Marketing's reputation as the most obnoxious and intellectually bankrupt department in the entire University.


Travis Anderson said...

I stalked down the source of this, I saw your post reblogged by Abbyolin and reblogged a response. I get this to you only to not be "talking trash (great pun amirite?) behind your back."
The original post (OP) was obviously not directed at you, nor did/do I know you. You are PHD, because you were referred to as "working on his PhD" and seem like a pretty huge dick to me.

OP: http://jetanders.tumblr.com/post/520358828

ITT: Econ prick needs to stop thinking econ pricks are better than everyone.
Abby Olin, your friend, PHD (pretty huge dick), needs to QQ.
Bold is for TL;DR people.
1. PHD is unaffected by this recycling/waste awareness project because how little PHD consumes, thus this project is a waste of time. Hey PHD, there are other people in the world who are not waste conscious. That’s what this project is meant to do: encourage others to think consciously about the waste they produce from consumption. Sorry not everyone in the world is as innately perfect as you, PHD.
2. PHD: “The people who come up with this kind of junk have zero respect for the time of others”; oh really PHD? I’m very sure PHD has “zero respect for the time of others,” consider janitors. It is hardly necessary to have trash-cans in every classroom (the trash out-put in a classroom is largely from snacks and soda, stuff that can be pocketed to be thrown away at the end of class). Minimizing the number of trashcans means less trash bags and less trash cans that the janitors clean up after and saves trash bags. Sure, a PHD won’t care about the janitor, but saving time with one thing helps out.
Someone would respond to this: “but janitor’s are paid to clean up trash! Professors are not paid to deal with trash!” (1) yes, but that does not mean you create more trash to make them clean up. (2) professors aren’t paid to consume shit at work and then make garbage, do it on your own time.
3. PHD thinks it takes 10 minutes to throw something out from an office. Seriously, what the fuck kind of trash are you throwing out? Also, I’m sure PHD wants to make it sound like PHD is thinking about other professors, but PHD cares ‘bout no one but PHD.

Alleged Wisdom said...

The recycling scheme will waste 10 minutes per week, not 10 minutes per piece of trash.

Division of labor makes everyone richer. If professors have to spend their time throwing away trash, it means less time for research and teaching. It is better for everyone to hire janitors to take out trash. That way they have a job. If this scheme succeeds, it will give the university an excuse to lay off the janitors, which will mean poverty and unemployment for them, instead of a good job.