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You Make the Call

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Growing up in the suburbs of Detroit, I used to listen to Detroit Tiger baseball games on the radio while cleaning the garage, or sitting by the lake, or working a summer job. The voice doing the play-by-play was Ernie Harwell. He used what we now call “Harwell-isms” in describing some of the action.

For example, to describe a pitcher’s wind-up and release, Harwell would say, “He kicks…and deals.” If a batter didn’t swing at a strike, Harwell would utter a disgusted, “He watched that go by like a house on the side of the road.” And then there was his iconic call on long home runs, “This one’s well hit…waaaaay back…it’s gone! A home run!”

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Those phrases have stuck with me through the decades. I remember the tone, the intention, and the situation behind them. And maybe that’s why it’s not such a bad idea behind the City of Toronto’s recent public service announcement for recycling.

The city is using Jack Armstrong, a sportscaster for the Toronto Raptors, and his popular (at least among Toronto fans) catchphrase to spread awareness on what is acceptable to put into blue recycling bins. We could look at this as an effort to reduce contaminants in recyclables and make them acceptable to China’s extremely low contamination percentage.

It’s a wonderfully creative PSA that sends the right message. It’s among the many efforts that municipalities are taking to deal with the China Waste Ban.

But I also agree with MSW Management magazine’s Landfill Manager’s Notebook columnist, Neal Bolton, who believes it’s time for innovation and new solutions. In this month’s column, Bolton says recycling is growing up. He writes, “But there is good news. A wake-up call can wake us up, and an honest correction can put us back on course. I believe this apparent crisis will get us beyond recycling simply for the sake of recycling. It will take us past regulatory diversion mandates that are applied regardless of a market’s ability to absorb or pay for them. In the end, the smart, innovative people in this industry will find ways to make it work.”

And look at it this way: When we finally have the solutions and get over the hump, we’ll already be well versed on which bins to use thanks to public service announcements helping us to make the right call. MSW_bug_web

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  1. I grew up listening to the tigers and you mean Ernie Harwell. He started his career on the radio announcing baseball games that were all ready concluded. He was given the box score and scripted the game. George Kell was his assistant.

    1. Thank you, Steve! You are correct. I do mean Ernie Harwell and no George Kell. The older I get…the more I misspeak. I’ll make the correction!

  2. Arturo – a little late, but I enjoyed the blog that referenced the Detroit Tigers play by play announcer. Having also grown up in SE Michigan, I spent many hours listening to the Tigers’ games. One additional line that Ernie Harwell would say when a fan would catch a foul ball was “… and a man from (fill in the Michigan city name here) caught that foul ball.” I also remember asking my dad “how does he know where that guy is from?”

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