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The Pittsburgh TARDIS: Please Recycle

on Wed, 11/13/2013 - 00:00

The Pittsburgh TARDIS
“The Doctor once told me off for dropping litter,” Rory Williams remembers in the Doctor Who novel Dead of Winter. “We were on a lovely alien planet. Walking through a park of singing purple trees. And I dropped something. Now don’t get all cross, not a tin can or anything. Just a banana skin.”

The Doctor, however, did not care, as litter is litter. “This is an alien planet,” he retorted. “A totally unique ecosystem. A world that has, up until this precise moment, had no bananas on it. And you’ve dropped one casually onto it. You have infected this planet, Rory. That banana could decay, some stray seeds could germinate and grow, and lots of banana trees could sprout all over the place. In five years’ time this forest could be utterly dead. No more singing trees. All because you have just dropped a banana skin.”

Like any city—or planet—Pittsburgh also strives to keep its environment free from litter, and in order to facilitate community recycling efforts, Mayor Luke Ravenstahl added an additional eighty recycling bins during June 2013 to go along with the fifty that had already been strategically placed around the downtown area.

These particular recycling bins, however, are blue cylinders with a matching cone on top. Although the part spaceship, part time machine TARDIS that the Doctor uses for travel on Doctor Who is a blue box, not a cylinder, there is a definite resemblance between these two items nonetheless. Could something have happened in Pittsburgh’s recent past that was anonymously and unknowingly fixed by the Doctor, and these new recycle bins have been intentionally created by him as a subconscious way of reminding us?

While remaining silent on whether the Steel City was indeed visited by the classic BBC character, the Mayor did offer additional insights regarding the region’s recycling efforts. “Recycling benefits our city and its residents by cutting landfill fees, saving taxpayer money and reducing waste,” Ravenstahl explained at the time. “I’m proud to say that from 2007 to 2012 over 78,000 tons of waste was recycled and over 19,000 tons was composted—saving the city $1.9 million in landfill costs and generating $3.4 million in recycling revenue as a result. Additionally, participation in recycling has increased from 49 percent in 2007 to 69 percent in 2012. These citywide efforts are helping to lower Pittsburgh’s carbon footprint and make our city a greener, cleaner city.”

The above statistics are a welcome relief when compared to the Doctor’s dire warning to Rory Williams in Dead of Winter. “Do you know these are the only singing trees for quite a number of star systems?” he rhetorically asked Rory. “So famous that when many, many thousands of years from now, when two terrible warring armies meet in this solar system and find this world, what will they do? Will they fight over it? No, they land, and they just look at the trees and listen to them sing. About 300 yards to the left and five thousand and three years from now, they declare peace. But no. That no longer happens. Not now. Instead they’ll find a dead world, and their war will carry on for thousands more years until both civilizations—billions of people—are dead.”

So the next time you pass by a TARDIS-shaped recycling bin on the streets of Pittsburgh, remember to use it. Who knows, after all, what might be at stake if you don’t.

Anthony Letizia

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