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In the area where we are spending the summer (we have to travel hither and yon for dear husband’s work) nobody seems to recycle anything unless you count the large deposits of fast food cartons and boxes that I see thrown onto the sides of the roads to biodegrade. There are no recycling receptacles in public areas and no separate bins for household trash whatsoever.

When I asked some of the locals where to put the recyclables they looked at me like I was from Mars and then looked at each other with an almost imperceptible nod and a wink to acknowledge to each other that “She’s not from around here.” I almost wanted to scream at them that while I might be a temporary transplant from another part of the country that they should wake up and realize that while each area might have its own unique culture (or lack of) that we are all part of the same planet.

In the face of this frustration, you can imagine how beautifully it kicked off my day to see that a news program will air this evening regarding how foreign countries are considerate enough to be taking garbage off the hands of the United States of America. I don’t have time to do in depth research on the subject but have read some excellent books by those that do track the “American Garbage Trail” that were very interesting. One was Garbage Land: On the Secret Trail of Trash by Elizabeth Royte who was surprisingly non-judgmental of non-recyclers as she states the pros and cons of the practice. I especially found the section on the New York waste-water treatment plants riveting. Gross facts on waste water for enquiring minds who just want to know and then might wish they didn’t.

What I would love to hear more about is why foreigners can find it profitable to buy our waste and pay the expensive cost for transportation in order to ship it overseas for recycling and yet we as a nation can’t find a way to skip the fee for transport and do it ourselves. What is the deal? Could someone please explain the economics or environmental reasons that our garbage is traveling so far from home?