Stop! Can you recycle that?
I can remember going with my dad to our local landfill. I recall driving up a big hill in his truck. When we got to the top, there were big pieces of equipment pushing the trash around. Some of the plastic, paper, and other small pieces of trash were blowing around in the wind. I remember seeing garbage stuck in nearby trees. I recall thinking “What are they going to do with all this trash?” I remember seeing other people on top of that hill dumping their garbage on the ground. They were dumping canned food cans, milk jugs, dirty diapers, sandwich bags, old grills, and even broken play toys, just whatever you did not want. I guess you just bring it to the big hill and throw it out, that seem to be the process. The heavy equipment will come and work it into the ground. If only it were that easy. There is a better way to “get rid” of things you do not want.
When I was growing up, I had no ideas about recycling. I don’t recall my parents every saying anything about repurposing materials or recycling. I did not know what was recyclable and what was not recyclable. After that day at the local landfill, I never really thought about it much. I continued to throw everything into the trash can with no regard. When I was finished with a soda, I just threw the can in our garbage bin.
It was only after I was married with children that it dawned on me; my children might have to build their future home on top of our garbage. A friend, Cindy, actually got me started recycling. We live in the county and we have to take our recycle materials to the facility. We do not have curbside pick-up. She showed me where the local recycling center was. She educated me on how to find out if a material is recyclable, just look for the recycle symbol on the bottom of the container or package.
Recycling is a great way to cut back on our landfill waste. “The amount of municipal solid waste produced annually in the U.S. has tripled since 1960, and in 2013, it totaled 254 million tons. That’s 4.4 pounds per person every day.” (Kraft) Let us try to put that into perspective. “China (with a population around four times larger than that of the U.S.) is close behind, with 190 million tons of waste per year.” (Simmons) WOW! How are we doing this? Where do we think all that garbage goes? How long do you think it will take for that amount of garbage to disintegrate? Not everything will decompose and go back into the soil.
Recycling is something that every person should be consciously participating. More that half the world’s population does not have access to regular trash collection, a grim statistic given that the amount of garbage produced globally.” (Simmons) This is not just a national problem it is a world problem. In the U.S. most people do have access to recycling receptacles. They are either not informed about the how to recycle or what to recycle or it is not convenient for them to recycle.
Recycling everyday materials is a great start. Once you start to recycle, you will begin to see other things that can be recycled to help our environment. It is similar to when you purchase a car; you start noticing that make and model everywhere. Another action that we could start is to educate our children, teaching them about recycling can be beneficial. If you teach a child to recycle at a young age, it will just become second nature to do it. They will not really have to think about it. We could start them out recycling things from their breakfast and lunch trays at school. We could assist them with things like their milk carton or ice cream cups. I believe that when you plant the seed, something great will grow.
In addition, our society loves convenience. If recycling containers are not easily accessible, they are unlikely to participate. In order to get people to participate we have to make it easy. Make sure you have a recycling receptacle next to your regular garbage bin. In order to make it less confusing you can use pictures, clearly label what material can go into each container, and display the recycling symbol. If you have more than one recycle container, make sure they are clearly marked for the appropriate materials (ex. Plastic # 1, Glass, & Paper).
“As for plastic that did get recycled, it gives rise to an unintended side effect: A team of scientists searching through sediments at a plastic bottle recycling plant in Osaka, Japan have found a strain of bacteria that has evolved to consume the most common type of plastic. Ideonella sakaiensis 201-F6 can degrade poly (ethylene terephthalate), commonly called PET or PETE, in as little as six weeks, they report in a new paper published Thursday it the journal science.” (Botkin-Kowacki) This is not a quick fix. Please do not think this is a sign that we can just throw away everything because bacteria will evolve to devour it. These bacteria cannot keep up with the amount of materials we throw way.
It will take all of us to clean up the mess that we have made. We only have one planet to live on. Let us not “trash” it. I don’t want to leave a mess that my children or Grandchildren have to figure out how to clean up. We can make a difference; we just have to take that first step. To me, that step is to start recycling paper and plastic, learn as you go. You will eventually discover other things you can recycle, reuse, or upcycle.
Stop! Can you recycle that?