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Greenrock says: Community's mindset makes all the difference to Green initiatives

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Last month our community was confronted with changes that ultimately affected our behaviour, both short and long-term. These changes also reflected the impact that our collective willingness and changing mindsets can have.

On August 9, Government's Waste Management department announced that recyclables will be collected every other week in an effort to be more cost-effective.

In its press announcement, Waste Management stated that it found many households were not recycling and in most cases, bags containing recyclable materials were only half-full. The community response to this seemed mixed disappointment, indifference and a question of 'What does this actually mean for our Island?'.

Fast forward about a week when bus operators voted to go on strike, bringing an integral part of our public transportation system to a standstill. A widespread response to this situation was a collective outpouring of goodwill from drivers offering rides to stranded bus commuters.

Both of these situations serve as stark and contrasting reminders of how much power our mindsets, particularly when it comes to sustainable practices on the Island, can have on our collective and individual behaviours.

The bus strike action showed how our community can respond positively to a challenging situation. Our mindsets shifted, resulting in residents offering and sharing rides with others.

In the past, the concept of ride-sharing and carpooling have often met resistance or lack of interest on our Island. Those few days during the strike demonstrated it is indeed possible for Bermuda and that our behaviours can change.

With the recent recycling schedule changes, our primary concern was the seemingly lack of awareness and unwillingness by a majority to engage in this straightforward practice of separating tins and glass from regular trash.

We believe the overall mindset towards recycling in Bermuda one that seems to be complacent due to beliefs that it's not a worthwhile or meaningful practice can change. So can the willingness of people to adopt simple behaviours, just like our community did during the bus action.

The fundamental aspect about recycling in Bermuda is this: we can do so much more. The tin, aluminum and glass we send to the Government facility do get reused, contrary to misconceptions that these items are not truly recycled. Tin and aluminum get sent off the Island for which the Government receives a fee.

It is unfortunate that Government has scaled back the recycling collection schedule as it may result in acting as a deterrent. However, the real issue is not the collection schedule but the willingness to recycle.

In reality, it is straightforward to address residents' concerns with the schedule changes for example, a sturdy container can hold a typical home's two weeks' worth of recycling, the recycling schedule can be posted as a reminder and quick rinses of the recyclable materials will avoid any smells. Many other jurisdictions in the UK and Canada collect waste items on a rotating, twice-monthly basis a system which has proven to still be effective and efficient.

Our community needs to be reminded of the recycling process here and understand why it is important to put finite resources back in to use. Education campaigns in Bermuda do not appear to have persuaded most people to recycle; therefore, it may be that Government's only solution to addressing this issue is a more drastic one to introduce fines to those households who do not sort their recyclables, a practice already enforced in many jurisdictions.

Our guess is that recycling would catch on quite quickly and many would discover that sorting recyclables is not such a time-consuming task should fines be imposed.

Bermuda has already demonstrated how we as a community can respond and adapt to changes in challenging times. Now it's a matter of shifting that mindset to everyday behaviours, where it truly makes an impact in the long-term.

Photo by Tamell Simons Ellen Ford at Demco Florists located on South Shore Road in Devonshire tied ribbons outside the shop last month. The ribbons were given away to motorists to fly on their cars to show they were willing to offer rides to people stranded by the industrial action taken by bus operators.

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Published September 01, 2011 at 3:00 pm (Updated September 01, 2011 at 3:19 pm)

Greenrock says: Community's mindset makes all the difference to Green initiatives

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