OKEECHOBEE - Earth Day has been celebrated annually since April 22, 1970 and is considered the birth of the environmental movement. That first year, 20 million Americans demonstrated in the streets in the hope that if people knew the impact industrial development was having on the planet, they might change the way things were done. In 1990, Earth Day went global and involved over 200 million people. In 2010, A Billion Acts of Green was launched. Earthday.org suggests, “From students in classrooms to organizers in their communities to officials in government there are ways for anyone of any background to make a difference. Start small and go big — or start big and stay big.”
One important way to make a difference in the environment, is to recycle. Greenandgrowing.org lists 10 ways recycling helps the planet:
• Recycling reduces energy consumption.
• Recycling reduces the size of landfills.
• Recycling Helps Minimize Pollution.
• Recycling Improves the Soil.
• Recycling Conserves Natural Resources.
• Recycling Saves Money.
• Recycling Creates Green Jobs.
• Recycling Reduces Greenhouse Gas Emissions.
• Recycling Prevents Loss of Biodiversity.
There are many misconceptions surrounding recycling. Most people think anything that’s plastic can go in the bin, but that’s not true. Plastic bags, for instance, are a huge “no-no.” They get caught in the machinery and can shut down the recycling facilities. They should be taken back to the stores to be recycled.
One of the recycling center’s biggest problems is contaminants. You can have your bin filled all nice and neat with cardboard and water bottles, and then someone throws in a soda can with an inch of soda left in the bottom. When that soda gets all over the rest of your recyclables, they are now contaminated and have to be thrown away. Any grease or food residue that gets on the recyclables will cause them to be thrown away. They don’t have the manpower to sort and clean everything down at the plant. If you have a little bit of mayonnaise in the bottom of your jar, and it doesn’t get on anything else, they would only throw away the mayo jar because the mayo is contaminating the jar but did not contaminate anything else in the bin. But think about it, If your goal is to recycle that mayo jar, you want to rinse it out before putting it in the bin, because if you don’t, it will be thrown away, and you will not have achieved your goal. If you order a pizza and the cardboard box it arrives in has grease or sauce on it, it cannot be recycled. It is contaminated.
The most common contaminants found in recycling bins are the following:
• Recyclables inside a garbage bag or other plastic bag — They do not have the manpower to take things out of the bag and sort through it and would throw the entire bag away.
• Food and liquids — Compost these items instead or throwing them in the garbage.
• Electronics and small appliances — If these are in good condition, donate them. Otherwise, schedule a bulky item pickup.
• Textiles, bedding, rugs and carpets — If they are in good condition, donate them. Otherwise, dispose of them.
• Hoses, holiday lights, hangers and extension cords — They can wrap around equipment and shut down an entire facility.
• Plastic bags, film/sheeting and flexible film packaging.
• Paper napkins and tissues — Many people think these are OK because they are paper, she said, but once you have wiped your mouth on them, they are contaminated. These should be composted if possible.
According to Waste Management, the things we should concentrate on recycling are plastic bottles and containers, food and beverage containers, paper, flattened cardboard, food and beverage cartons and glass bottles and containers, but don’t forget to rinse these containers out. You don’t have to wash them, but they have to be rinsed out or they can’t be used.
Did you know, recycling just one aluminum can saves enough energy to run a television for two hours or power a 14-watt CFL bulb for 20 hours or power a computer for three hours?
For more recycling information and tips, visit recycleoftenrecycleright.com.