Recycling – Why Isn’t Everyone Doing It?

Yesterday, I put my garbage and recycle bins out for pick up and looked up and down my street. Of the half dozen or so houses with trash cans outside waiting for pick up, I was the only one with recycling bins. All I could think was, What’s wrong with this picture?

Granted, after five years of paying for recycling pick-up, this was the first day I put out recycling for pick-up. I guess I thought it would be a hassle: Clean out the containers, remove labels, and separate the plastic, paper, and glass. Well, it might have been like that five years ago, but times have changed. Two weeks ago, I decided to look on my refuse companies website, www.wm.com. I was amazed to learn that there is something called Commingled Recyclables and Mixed Residential Paper Specifications.

I thought, I know what commingle and mixed mean. I don’t have to separate everything, which is good since I only have three bins. I looked around my house, at the plastic milk containers, liquor bottles, soda cans, empty toilet paper and paper towel rolls, junk mail and advertisements that littered my table tops, and margarine containers. The list seemed endless. For all intents and purposes, it is: Juice bottles, shampoo and conditioner bottles, peanut butter jars, salsa jars. On and on it goes. There was so much I could recycle, and so little that would end up in a landfill. Even the shreddings that come from destroying my personal information are accepted, but they have to be in paper bags or boxes.

So, for the last two weeks, that’s what I did. If it was not on my list of acceptable items that I printed from www.wm.com, it went into the trash. If it was, it went into a bin. I was amazed at how easy it was. I put the bins in my kitchen. Yes, I know, it is a bit unsightly, but I figure if they are right there when I empty a container, I am more likely to put them in the recycle bin. And, I did. Empty a container, toss the top in the trash, toss the container in a bin. I do separate paper/cardboard from glass, plastic, and aluminum. Right now they don’t take plastic bags, even though some have the HDPE symbol on them or the trays that meat comes in. Maybe at a later date.

I searched the Internet to find how many trees it takes to make paper. This is what I found at www.tappi.org (Tappi is a “[p]rofessional organization dedicated to the pulp and paper industries”) who got it from A Tree for Each American, AmericanForest & Paper Association, Washington, DC:

“[L]et’s assume that the following paper products have been produced using 100 percent hardwood. A cord of wood is approximately 8 feet wide, 4 feet deep, and 4 feet high. A cord of air-dried, dense hardwood (oak, hickory, etc.) weighs roughly 2 tons, about 15-20 percent of which is water.

“It has been estimated that one cord of this wood will yield one of these approximate quantities of products:

– 1,000-2,000 pounds of paper (depending on the process)

– 942 100-page, hard-cover books

– 61,370 No. 10 business envelopes

– 4,384,000 commemorative-sized postage stamps

– 460,000 personal checks

– 1,200 copies of National Geographic

– 2,700 copies of an average daily newspaper”

They go on to say that 1.5 billion seedlings are planted every year, which means about 4 million trees daily, five trees for every single person in America. Oh, and “[t]rees are a renewable resource” and there are more trees now than 70 years ago.

Now, Tappi is obviously biased. And, that’s okay. But, if we were to recycle paper, shouldn’t that mean that more trees can be used for lumber to build houses, which should theoretically bring down lumber prices? Just a thought.

Then there is the plastic, glass, and aluminum. Those are not renewable resources, and they are not biodegradable, which means that when they go into a landfill, they stay in the landfill. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, landfills product methane, which is “a greenhouse gas that remains in the atmosphere for approximately 9-15 years. Methane is over 20 times more effective in trapping heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide (CO2) over a 100-year period…” (www.epa.gov) So, while everyone is screaming “greenhouse gasses are going to kill us all,” why are we not doing more to reduce what goes into landfills?

Now, if you don’t want to pay your refuse collector to pick up your recyclables, you can take your recyclables to a local recycling center. You will love the way you feel when you know you have done your part for the environment. If you have kids, make it a family thing. Lead by example. Show hour kids how easy it is to do their part for our environment.

It is so easy, it is almost laughable. Instead of throwing it into container A (trash can), throw it into container B, C, or D (your recycle bins)!

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