My family and I often walk in the neighborhood around downtown, both for fun and for the physical benefits. Quite often, we find ourselves having to circumnavigate large, brown roll-out carts. These centurions of the sidewalk, bellies full of our refuse, will soon offer their contents to the sanitation workers who transport the waste to some “faraway” landfill.
Normally, trash does not command much attention, but when I am confronted by these overfilled carts I have to ask, “Where is all of this trash going? How many generations will live and die before this stuff finally decomposes?” At the current rate, our town – even our civilization – will be a distant memory by the time the earth reclaims this garbage.
I have to admit that I too am part of the problem. I do not recycle enough, and nobody is pushing the issue in our county in a way to remind and encourage me to do more to help. In our beautiful communities we take for granted that the industrial, agricultural, and consumer waste will just disappear. The heaping mess that accrues does not bother us because we do not see the mountain of trash that lives in the northern part of our county. As far as we are concerned, “out of sight is out of mind.”
We should learn from California. Not too long ago, government leaders there realized that space in landfills was running out. Rather than simply creating news landfills (which would themselves be filled in less than ten years), local leaders started very aggressive recycling programs. More than just creating the programs, the cities insisted that everyone participate and provided the tools to do so.
Visit many California homes and you will find four waste containers rather than the single monoliths that obstruct our sidewalks. One is for non-recyclable trash, and the other three are for various recyclables. Furthermore, each of the three recycling bins in California homes is twice as big as the single green bins we have. Given more education and tools, we could greatly increase the success of our recycling. Here it is likely that over 75% of our trash is actually recyclable, and recyclable in a way that can benefit our communities. Increasing our recycling awareness and actual recycling will help save the earth from our propensity to over-consume while at the same time providing jobs. Recycled products can become daily essentials such as toilet paper, road surfaces, drinking containers, car parts, and even medical equipment.
The solution does not lie in fining people for failing to recycle. We can be more proactive on an individual basis. First make a commitment to recycle at least 75% of your waste. Second go to the Department of Sanitation and request two additional recycling containers. They are free and, from the dearth of bins I see on the streets on designated pick-up days, probably in plentiful supply. Third, petition your community leaders to consider earnestly the possibility of using larger, possibly wheeled, carts that are designated for recycling purposes. Taking initiative in those three ways will facilitate greater use of recycling potential while simultaneously teaching future generations about the value of caring for our planet.
A final, and perhaps more controversial initiative, is to encourage companies to pay people for recycled trash. Though it may sound odd, recycling is a multi-billion dollar industry. However, very few companies actually pay anything for the products we throw away and from which they produce new products. (Gone are the days of cash returns on glass bottles!) If we have to pay for the soda bottle that was created from recycled material, then the bottle company should be willing – if not required – to pay for their raw (recycled) materials.
If we truly want to leave the earth healthy for the next generation, we owe it to them to take better care of it by recycling more. If we don’t act now, we stand the chance of turning this currently pristine community into just another trash heap.
Nike Roach,MS, CPT, LMBT
6th Sense Wellness Group