There’s a conspiracy afoot—and it’s a big one.
At the heart of so many of the problems that plague our campus—stress, anxiety, the impossibility of ever making a real choice—this monster crouches, laughing in the shadows as we unknowingly throw away our sanity. We’ve been lied to, fooled and toyed with like the oblivious infants we are. Our deepest fear—the belief that nothing we do will have any real impact—proves true, as our small yet concerted collective efforts to make a difference are daily thwarted. In this post-truth world of ours, nothing is what it purports to be. Not even the trash.
In all likelihood, you’ve never thought about it. You just toss your recyclables into the proper color-coded bin, relying on the suggestively shaped perforations to tell you: ‘Bottles & Cans Only,’ or ‘Rejected Manuscripts/Unread Newspapers Here.’
But every so often, there’s a tug. A feeling that something is…off. As you toss the latest unread copy of Spec into the bin, you have a brief moment of panic (one unrelated to that embarrassment of a paper). Through your head flashes a warning: “Something is Wrong!”
And then it’s gone, and you go on with your day, seemingly unaffected. But the seed of existential doubt has been planted and nothing can stop it now. It will ride with you through the rest of your days, both on this campus and off. It is the unnamed beast lurking in the shadows, the palpable obscure haunting your dreams.
Today, we name it. And in naming, we expose. Hark, O Columbians, and witness: Recyclegate.
Exhibit A: A classic case of top-swap. (Feb 26, 2016)
“Surely this is overblown, surely there is a reasonable explanation,” you might say. Oh, how we wish you were right. At first, one might reasonably attribute the confusion to some mischievous prankster who gets off on switching bin-covers. Even the so-called Extreme Prankster case evidenced in Exhibit B can be so explained, albeit with a bit of a stretch (as it requires them to relocate an entire bin).
Exhibit B: Notice the doubling of Bottles & Cans receptacles but the single All Paper cover on the leftmost bin, belying the troubling absence of a proper Paper bin. (Dec. 8, 2017)
Alas, such a mollifying explanation falls quickly to pieces. There are…glitches…that defy such a prankster(s). The conspiracy goes deeper. Much deeper.
Aside from the textual testimony each bin gives as to its purpose, general recycling relies on tells to announce itself. These tells are as close to universal truths as we are like to get on this earth: Green is Paper, Plastic & Metal = Blue; slits suggest discarded essays and shoddy newspapers, while circular apertures cry out for bottles and cans. Symbolical and practical, these clues are meant to guide us in our quest to save the world. The truths they represent are our anchors, our rocks. The White House may have turned orange, but so long as Green is Paper we might still sleep at night.
But this is 2017, and truth no longer exists.
Exhibit C, “The Label Libel”: Notice the discrepancy between the ‘All Paper’ label and the circular perforations plus the subtle yet paradoxical sticker. (May 8, 2017)
The sobering reality is that Paper hasn’t been Green for at least two years (evidenced by Exhibit D) and all that we think we know to be true seems determined to flip us off and chortle at our fears of Fakeness.
Exhibit D: Clearly a manufacturing error. (Dec. 3, 2015)
In East Germany, the Stasi would disrupt their targets with a method of psychological warfare called Zersetzung, in which subtle manipulations of the everyday objects in a victim’s home would help destabilize their sanity. The calculated disruptions, the small changes in tiny things the target was sure about—replacing the saltshakers with sugar or moving the pictures on the wall—would precipitate a slow breakdown of their perceptions of reality.
That feeling, that profound unease you get while walking through the halls of Butler Library? Just saying.
As I mentioned in an email to Scott Wright, Vice President for Campus Services, the trend of mislabeling and misperforation has increased at an alarming rate over the past year. By my last reckoning, somewhere around 20% of Butler Library’s recycling bins are now affected in some way by this deceitful disease.
Exhibit E, “God is Dead”: Misperforations and gross disregard for color-code consistency. (Nov. 30, 2017)
The question remains: cui bono? Who could possibly be behind these acts of confusion, and why? My investigation has so far come up empty handed, but we will, we must get to the bottom of this. Until then, stay vigilant. And stick to non-recyclables.
Exhibit F: We’re on to you, Louie.