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Living the recycling life

My Opinion
Living the recycling life
Living the recycling life
Stephanie Taylor Ferriell
Stephanie Taylor Ferriell, Senior Staff Writer, [email protected]

Recycling has long been a passion for me. I was fortunate to live in a city, Salem, that offered curbside recycling for many years. When we moved to Marengo, we lost the curbside recycling (which had its limits; it did not include plastic, for example). We now have to take our recyclables to one of three centers.

Happily, that has not been a big issue. We always had to take plastic to the center before. The nice part about Crawford County’s program is that the recycling centers also accept trash for only $2 for a large bag. Instead of paying at least $30 a month for garbage pickup, we average between $4 and $6. I’m telling you, being a tree hugger has its benefits. It’s stunning how little trash a family of five produces when recyclables are pulled out.

I was floored when I first visited a recycling center here. We typically visit the Marengo site but sometimes take items to English as well. Despite being facilities that deal with tons of waste, there’s no litter to be found. The centers are amazingly neat and clean.

We make recycling a family affair. There’s a bin in the kitchen where it’s all collected. That bin is then taken to the garage and sorted into containers for newspaper, white paper, magazines, cardboard, glass, tin, aluminum and plastic.

My kids love visiting the recycling centers. The staff members are awesome and are always genuinely happy to see the kids, encouraging them to play in the dirt and collect bugs behind the building.

Trash is one of those stinky subjects nobody really wants to think about. And it’s obvious. We’re literally drowning in garbage in America. We have more than 2,000 landfills and, no matter how well they’re managed, there’s issues associated with them such as greenhouse gases and leachate.

Consider these statistics from Rubicon:

  • Americans throw away 2.5 million plastic bottles – wait for it – each hour. That’s a mind-boggling 695 per second. It takes 500 years for a plastic water bottle to fully decompose.
  • Americans use 65 billion aluminum soda (that’s not counting beer) cans each year. In only three months, enough aluminum cans are thrown out in the United States to rebuild all of our commercial air fleets.
  • A single American consumes roughly two trees annually in paper products (plates, napkins and the like).
  • The United States throws away $11.4 billion worth of recyclable containers and packaging each year.
  • Although 75% of America’s waste is recyclable, only about 30% is actually recycled.

That last one is perhaps the most unfortunate of all. Three-quarters of our waste is recyclable but only a third is actually recycled. That can change, but it takes commitment and, I’m not going to lie, effort.

There are other ways to lessen your impact of trash on the world.

We used cloth diapers with all three of our children. Disposable diapers have been around for about 50 years now and they account for 7.6 billion pounds of garbage each year (that’s enough to fill Yankee Stadium 15 times). They take up a vast amount of landfill space.

Use real items when dining. I hate disposable plates, cups and cutlery. It’s all just tossed away, again clogging landfills. I’m a huge Goodwill fan (big surprise, huh?) and I’ve collected ample plates, saucers, forks and spoons to get us through any event we host. And, you can’t deny, the real stuff adds a touch of class paper and plastic just cannot.

Stop using plastic straws. It was all over for us when the kids saw the video last year of the sea turtle with the plastic straw stuck in its nose. For Christmas last year, my sister gave each of us a little zippered pouch containing metal cutlery and a straw. If we don’t have that with us at restaurants, we usually just drink straight from the cups.

We all have a responsibility to take care of our little corner of the planet. Recycling is a huge part of that. I’m a firm believer that individual actions matter. If we don’t do what we can to improve the world, who will?