Some recycling is better than no recycling at all
Recently, I have been hearing people questioning whether they should recycle or not. With constant changes on what is accepted in our curbside program and what gets to indeed be recycled, some believe recycling is not worth the effort.
Despite the current trend, recycling still is a valuable practice. It might not be the first R that should be practiced — reduce and reuse will always come first — but it does have positive effects.
It reduces the amount of material buried in landfills and, consequently, the need for more land to be used for landfills; reduces the amount of raw material extracted to make new products; reduces water and energy consumption in the manufacturing of products; prevents pollution by cutting down the production process; and helps create green jobs, among other things, according to the EPA.
Recycling has some great benefits, so finding a balance between wishcycling (putting in the recycle bin everything one wishes would be recycled) and not recycling at all will be in everyone’s interest.
How to decide what to recycle?
The Brevard County Solid Waste Management Deptartment has the power to hire services that will dictate what can be recycled in our area, but they also walk the thin line between doing what they would like to do and doing what they can do. A lot of that is due to costs.
For unincorporated Brevard, a new recycling contract is being negotiated. According to Euripides Rodriguez, the director of that department, “There has been no discussion of altering the current level of services” and glass will continue to be collected. No other services, like composting or recycling in public places, are planned to be added at this time.
In terms of cost, Rodriguez said, “This is a stand-alone fund, which does not receive contributions from other sources. So, the cost will be borne by the residents of unincorporated Brevard County.”
It would be good if items such as glass could be part of the collection service — not reused or discarded. After all, that is the meaning of recycling, whose symbol’s three arrows represent: 1. Collect recyclables. 2. Process them into a new product. 3. Buy products with recycled content (Project Learning Tree). Perhaps requiring that at least a certain percentage of the collected material be indeed recycled would be something a new contract could stipulate, but that might be tricky in practice.
The market (demand and price paid) for recyclables greatly influences what ends up being recycled. The more we buy products made of recycled materials, the higher the demand for recyclables is. This, in turn, helps grow the market.
The recycling business also is extremely affected by mixed-in trash and wishcycling — high contamination rates translate into higher costs and lower profits. That ends up affecting what is recycled, especially in unfavorable periods of low demand and prices.
So, to help the curbside recycling program, stick to the basics and place in the bin only items you are sure are accepted in your area. Otherwise, follow the rule — when in doubt, throw it out.
If you choose to recycle nothing else but your empty milk/juice jugs and aluminum beverage cans, that is all right. If you want to go a bit further and recycle your detergent/shampoo bottles, water/soda bottles, cardboard boxes and steel cans, that will be super. But don’t quit. Lean recycling is better than no recycling at all.
In order to expand the current program, we need to show that we can do the basics first. The more of the right items we put in the bin, the more we will be able to recycle now and in the future.
Email Marcia Booth at Marcia@RecycleBrevard.org