The Heap

From the Can: Common Ground

With a presidential election just around the corner, it’s become virtually impossible to avoid the strident din of the political machine. No matter where your allegiances lie, you’ve almost certainly been exhausted by the constant barrage of high-volume rhetoric, especially if you are one of those souls unfortunate enough to live in a swing state.

I’ll admit it: When I first began covering the waste and recycling industry, I had a few preconceptions about the political leanings of the folks who populated it. But I learned a funny thing as I attended more events, researched more stories and simply talked to more people working in our industry: The de facto political litmus test that characterizes a lot of industries doesn’t really apply here. I’ve met folks from across the political spectrum working in all corners of the industry. Yes, there are certain segments that tend to fall more predictably to one side or the other, but by-and-large, our industry has somehow found a way to rise above its political differences when the national populace seems less and less capable of doing so with each passing election.

A recent poll on would seem to bear that out. Asked to choose which of the two major political parties is more sympathetic toward waste and recycling industry interests, a healthy number of respondents wound up almost tied, with Democrats taking it by a nose.

So what accounts for this lack of political rancor? I wish I could say for certain. I think the restraint is partly due to the same knowledge that keeps waste folks cool in a recession: Despite swings in the economy and the political climate, people will keep on producing waste. That presents us with the shared and fundamentally unchanging goals of managing that waste in the most efficient, profitable and environmentally responsible way possible while harnessing as much of that material as a resource as we can. We may sometimes debate the paths to achieving those goals but never lose sight of what we are trying to achieve, nor that we are better off trying to achieve it together.

Listen, I’m not saying we’re all going to join hands and sing “Kumbaya” around a MRF, but it is comforting to know that I can walk into any room of folks in this industry and expect a warm handshake and an open mind.

Regardless of what happens on Nov. 6, I hope that you will exercise your right to vote and be proud that you work in an industry that does not stigmatize you for your choices.

As always, I welcome your thoughts. Please email me at [email protected].

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