Alright. If you do not already know, I am very passionate about recycling. A little to the point of crazy. It just makes a lot of sense. Recycling is an easy way for the everyday person to re use products and not have to do any of the work! But it is excruciatingly hard to engage people to do it. I must admit, my boyfriend sort of recycles, mostly because I am constantly watching him like a hawk. Also, I have yet to convince my best friend who does not recycle. If I can’t convince them then can I convince you?
Here is my attempt:
First of all, let us remember, the resources used to make everything you have whether your simple Kleenex box or your fancy car, all of the materials come from the environment. Let’s trace something back… A watch. What is your fancy watch made of and where does it come from? Well your watch is made of stainless steel, gold, platinum, titanium and plastic. Stainless steel is a mix of minerals such as chromite and nickel which are harvested from the ground in mainly Russia and Canada. Gold, we all remember the “gold rush” from elementary school, so we can easily associate gold with harvesting it from the Earth. Platinum is a chemical element found in some nickel and copper mined in mainly South Africa. Titanium is a chemical element found in a number of minerals and widespread in the Earth’s crust. Titanium is often mixed with iron to create a lightweight strong compound. And guess what titanium is harvested from the Earth. Lastly, plastic. Everyday I am shocked by the number of people that do not know what makes up plastic. Plastic is made from petrochemicals… OIL! So if we think of plastic as oil we can easily associate it with drilling the Earth to harvest the raw material.
Basically my point is, we harvest raw materials from the Earth, manufacture them and send them around the world to make the products we use everyday. The process of collecting the raw materials from the Earth is environmentally degrading. Have you heard of mountaintop removal? Exactly what it states is what they do. Companies remove mountain tops to expose coal. The leftover hill is like a moonscape, no vegetation, no wildlife, no life. By the way, this is happening here in the United States in the Appalachian Mountains. Destructive mining has led to loss of biodiversity in many areas around the world. Need more proof? In East Africa mining is threatening the coastal forests that are considered a hotspot for biodiversity. Don’t believe me? Click here.
With every new product you buy, try and remember that you are adding to the mining and collection of the these materials. It is extremely hard to connect to the Earth when you are standing in the middle of a mall, department store, grocery store or other building.
But, if you recycle the product, or packaging, that means the materials will be broken back down into their raw materials and made into another product. Taking out the need to mine for more raw materials, destroying more wild habitat.
If we don’t recycle, where does your trash go? I have asked this question to thousands of people, kids and adults and I would say about 25% know where their trash goes. No one is hiding it, we just don’t want to think about it. Your trash goes to a landfill or the ocean. Yes, they load your trash on a boat and take it out into the middle of the ocean and drop it. Anyone remember the “the solution to pollution is dilution.” We still have that mindset. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, because of ocean currents their is an area in the Pacific ocean that is collecting trash in mass quantities, about the size of Texas. Gross! Or maybe you like the landfills better. Here in El Paso we have more than one landfill in the area, but the biggest one is about 95 feet deep and covers about 600 acres!! Now that is some trash! In the United States there are 3,091 active landfills and over 10,000 old municipal landfills, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Landfills are hazardous sites that leach pollution into the air and ground which leads to our water supply.
|Trash washed up on a beach|
But here is the thing. We can easily reduce the amount of trash going to our landfills and ocean by recycling. But most people don’t. Less than 1% of plastic bags are recycled. And don’t give me the “it’s hard” excuse. Most cities have curb side recycling programs and if not they have drop off locations. It is not hard to set up two bins in your house and put the recyclables in one and trash in the other.
Ok still not sold on the idea? Here are some eyebrow raising statistics that should put you over the edge.
- Americans use 2,500,000 plastic bottles every hour! Most of them are thrown away!
- Plastic bags and other plastic garbage thrown into the ocean kill as many as 1,000,000 sea creatures every year! (I mean, surely when you read this your heart goes out to them.)
- Mining and transporting raw materials for glass produces about 385 pounds of waste for every ton of glass that is made. If recycled glass is substituted for half of the raw materials, the waste is cut by more than 80%.
- Every year, each American throws out about 1,200 pounds of organic garbage that can be composted.
- The US population discards each year 16,000,000,000 diapers, 1,600,000,000 pens, 2,000,000,000 razor blades, 220,000,000 car tires, and enough aluminum to rebuild the US commercial air fleet four times over.
- A single quart of motor oil, if disposed of improperly, can contaminate up to 2,000,000 gallons of fresh water. Motor oil never wears out, it just gets dirty. Oil can be recycled, re-refined and used again, reducing our reliance on imported oil.
- On average, each one of us produces 4.4 pounds of solid waste each day. This adds up to almost a ton of trash per person, per year.
Approximately 60% of the garbage we throw away could be recycled! If you are inspired to recycle please find out how to in your town. The easiest way is google “recycle and the name of your town and city”. If you have a smartphone the Treehugger app lists recycling in many places around the country. It is free and has lots of other helpful information on it as well.
El Paso, Texas: www.recycleelpaso.org
Or still too much work… ASK ME! I will find out what you can recycle, where and if you have curbside recycling where you live for you! Email, comment, facebook me… just contact me!
Recycling is step one and I hope that everyone feels a bit encouraged to participate. My next step is to encourage you to buy recycled products and compost! But baby steps. Let’s recycle.
I am excited about an upcoming recycling/conservation project I am creating at my work that will hopefully inspire visitors and the staff to think, care and take part in our effort to recycle all we can! Stay tuned.