By Larraine Roulston :
With the 3Rs (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle) being taught in schools and recycling bins situated in homes, offices and on city streets, most people should have good recycling habits. The concept is simple. The process involves the breaking down of an item and reusing the materials to make either the same product or something different. By not recycling over and over again, our packaging containers and other items usually end up being thrown away as trash.
The benefits that come from recycling are numerous to both the environment and to the economy. Recycling greatly reduces the use of water and energy, as well as the amount of pollutants that are released into the air. Also, millions of tons of material are prevented from entering landfills or from being incinerated. By recycling, you are helping to minimize your carbon footprint. Companies utilizing a well-maintained recycling program will save money by instilling good waste management practices amongst employees. In addition, more recycling jobs are created when companies work toward zero waste. One of the many “Fast Fact Sheets” states, “Incinerating 10,000 tonnes [sic] of waste creates 1 job, landfilling the same waste would create 6 jobs, but recycling creates 36 jobs.”
Our natural resources are conserved when we recycle.
Glass: The average glass bottle contains 25% recycled content — green bottles as much as 90%. A computer could be powered for 25 minutes with the energy saved by recycling just one glass bottle.
Paper: In Britain, approximately 5 million trees each year would not be cut down if everyone recycled an extra 10% of their paper. Recycled paper products create 73% less air pollution than those manufactured from raw materials.
Plastics: Fiberfill for sleeping bags, jackets and stuffed toys can be made from recycling PET plastics. Also, only half the energy is consumed by not burning plastic in an incinerator. Up to 2,000 gallons of gasoline can be saved by recycling one ton of this material.
Although many fast food/drive-through restaurants have recycling containers, they are rarely used properly. Even clear instructions and images do not appear to have much impact. Staff do not have the time to remove recyclables from the garbage or to pick out food and greasy napkins from the plastic/paper recycling bins. This has to change if we are going to raise our awareness to the next level. Along with promoting recycling with fact sheets and visual instructions, I would like to see governments and corporate sponsors create jobs by hiring people to be present at public events, fast food outlets, parks and even on the city sidewalks to offer hands-on demonstrations. In New York City, for example, one sees recycling and garbage bins side by side, yet the recycling bins look no different from the garbage bins. In the same city, Disney characters and other popular cartoon personalities on Broadway entertain the public with street photos. Instead, why not have them join the recycling revolution by guiding people to source-separate correctly.
With climate change, recycling correctly becomes even more essential. Also, with your power of purchase, look for information indicating that items are “made from post-consumer’’ materials. As recycling technology continues to evolve, so must the mainstream public.
Larraine authors the Pee Wee at Castle Compost adventure series at www.castlecompost.com