Last night, I stopped by Michigan State University’s state-of-the art Public Recycling Center to drop off my recyclables. While there, I happened to notice a woman was carrying a metal object with three-prongs at the end of it.
As I observed her and later a gentleman who was with her, I realized they were using this object to retrieve aluminum soda/beer cans and glass soda/beer bottles from the bins. In Michigan, you receive 10 cents for each of these when you return them to stores for recycling. Essentially they were scavenging for these 10 cent bits of “gold” to recycle at an area store and earn money. While I had seen scavengers hunt down discarded aluminum cans and glass bottles after MSU football games, this was the first time I had seen it happen at the recycling center.
Once I realized what they were up to, I offered them my 20 or so cans and bottles figuring they could use the $2.00 a lot more than I could. I also thought about the image of Americans resorting to scavenge for money and food. After a football game, some of the scavengers will ride away on their bikes with stuffed, multiple bags of empty cans and bottles. While this may be good for the environment, it is a horrible image of what the United States is becoming (or has become) – a nation composed of either enormously rich or desperately poor residents.
If some of our citizens are desperate enough to raid recycling facilities, will we soon see individuals scouring landfills, or as is found in some nations, actually living in landfills? I sure hope not, but given the shredding of the social safety net by the right-wing, I find it hard to believe it will not happen. When a society and an economic system literally treats its own citizens like rubbish, it is has hit rock bottom ethically and morally, and is hardly worth preserving in its current state of disrepair.