The 2008 Democratic National Convention has gone green; the evidence is all around. Inside the perimeter are hundreds of receptacles marked for recycling, compost and landfill. You also can’t miss the 900 volunteers in their green T-shirts who make up the Green Team. But what you don’t see are the people on the Green Team who are back in a secluded area sorting all of the trash.
All the compost and recyclable articles are taken to this sorting area. Not being able to trust the thousands of guests inside the perimeter to distribute their waste appropriately, these volunteers have the task of emptying the bags and sorting through the contents in order to make sure the recyclable articles go where they are supposed to, all the compost goes where it is supposed to and all the trash goes where it is supposed to.
The sorting area is surrounded by a tall fence with green lining, so you wouldn’t know it was there if you weren’t directed to it. Inside are rows of tables where people sort through the trash. There are multiple huge dumpsters for the different waste (recycling, compost, landfill) as well as an accumulating pile of garbage. About 20 people were diligently dumping and sorting the garbage from the convention, seemingly undisturbed by the waste they were stepping in and the stench of all this garbage sitting in the hot sun. But when I approached any of them, I was told they could not talk to me about anything, and was shown where I could leave.
I was then directed to the press office. I asked them why no one was allowed to talk to the press about his or her job on the Green Team since you think everyone would love to be having such a great event covered. I was told, “Oh, they’re just volunteers,” which seemed a little condescending for the type of grunge work they are doing.
I finally got someone on the Green Team, although outside the sorting zone, to talk to me off the record. She explained that the goal of the convention is to try to recycle more than 80 percent of the trash, and to ensure that it is, some of the bags have to be sorted. She said her job is to help inform people about what goes where and to watch what is put where. “If you know that it’s a good bag, you tag it,” she said, explaining how that keeps the sorters from having to go through every single bag. I asked her whether she had to sort through her receptacle station if she saw people put items in the wrong place. She said she was not directed to do this but had brought her gloves so she could get items from the top to resort them to make the whole process easier.
Dina Allen, another DNCC volunteer but not on the Green Team, commented about the job the sorters are doing. “They don’t just recycle. They are sorting every little piece of paper out of the trash.”
These behind-the-scenes people are ensuring that the DNC doesn’t just look green, with recycling receptacles out everywhere, but that it actually is green, with everything being sorted in its proper place. It is also interesting to note that the Green Team folks are just general volunteers who had no idea they would be given this huge responsibility.
— Erin M. Moffet