There's a story on Yahoo! Health about the "20 Worst Foods in America," taking off from the Men's Health (Rodale) series "Eat This, Not That," that I found instructive.

No, it wasn't because of the bombshell that their selected Worst "Healthy" Sandwich is vegetarian. (When something has three different cheeses in it, it's a pretty simple rule of thumb that the word "healthy" can only be applied ironically.) And since the focus seems to be on what most people eat most of the time - i.e. junk food - none of the "shocking" calorie or fat counts were particularly surprising.

Rather, it was the format, the way of presenting comparative information, this vs. that. I believe that Philadelphia's Recyclying program could take some tips from Rodale in how to get our residents to think about the task. A Web site along the lines of "Recycle This, Not That" would be really helpful, and I'm talking about specific branded items, not general concepts like "aluminum cans." I mean, even as someone theoretically committed to the cause, I probably throw out way more than I should because I'm just not sure where the lines are for this or that kind of item and the default, barring any handy source of definitive info, is to pitch it.

Why stop at a straightforward guide, though? Rodale has a quiz (which I aced, I'll have you know) about which foods are the unhealthiest for kids - why not a quiz on "Can This Be Recycled in Philly?" How about a YouTube video - or a series of videos - using fresh faces from one of our many local theatrical and/or puppet troupes in skits showing real items from the Acme, from the Whole Foods, from the Shop Rite, so people get an idea fixed in their mind through the power of strong visuals and - why not? - catchy tunes?

It's not that crazy a concept: Ben Ditzler of RecycleNOW Philadelphia, who contacted me after this E2P post ran, points out that "San Francisco uses a picture-based recycling information system because of its large immigrant populations and dozens of different languages spoken in the city." Fine, but it's not necessarily an English vs. Non-English thing - even Joey Vento would probably appreciate picture-based information here. It helps stick in the mind.

RecycleNOW has their own helpful site, including suggestions for the city that go beyond my area of interest, the yes-or-no issue. And Ditzler is pushing for such common-sense enhancements to our local program as "bins for every household; collection of all plastics #1-7; collection of organics (kitchen and yard waste make up 25% of our total trash, are massive contributors to global warming, and are easily recycled); recycling in all apartments, condos, offices, schools, parks, street corners, churches, etc. and RecycleBank," a system that rewards people for recycling.

Again, going weekly citywide with curbside pickup was a huge step - but the city can do more, and I'm hoping they're looking to RecycleNOW and other passionate local advocates to assist in coming up with a truly comprehensive, if not revolutionary, plan. Old habits die hard, but new ones can grow tall if they're given the right care. Here's hoping some of these ideas get that level of care, and soon.