A tweet from Rob McNealy this afternoon stuck with me: “Bottom drops out of recycling industry.” While I am concerned about our planet’s wellbeing, I’ve always been skeptical about the recycling industry in the U.S. I dutifully clean and sort my recyclables, pay a monthly fee to Waste Management for them to pick up the content of my recycling bins, so that they can turn around and sell it for a profit. If that’s not a good example of double-dipping, I don’t know what is. While visiting my parents in Taiwan 2 years ago, I noticed they weren’t sorting their recyclables. I asked if they knew about the various recycling symbols and codes. Yes, they were well aware, but that’s not how it works there. Residential customers are paid an incentive for separating out recyclables and compostables from their trash for the waste collection companies, whose employees are then responsible for sorting recyclables back at the plant. My father casually remarked, “if we started sorting our own recyclables, a lot of people would lose their jobs.” Hmm… but that’s another topic.
The business and politics of the industry aside, recycling really only moves the piles around. We need to work on reducing the amount we add to the piles. I used to make fun of the older women in my family for washing and reusing Ziploc bags and aluminum pie tins. (If you’re Asian, you know what I’m talking about! They probably have drawers full of margarine tubs, too!) Now I realize they’re the ones who truly understand the word “conservation.” I still wonder how my mother, grandmother and aunts have managed to keep such clean and tidy households without paper towels, but I’m changing one small habit at a time. We recently ditched paper napkins in favor of cloth ones in our house. IKEA sells very simple white cloth napkins, $1.99 for a pack of 4. In addition to reducing our dependence on paper products, using cloth napkins has also added an extra touch of warmth to family meals. For me, small changes like this are simple to implement, easy to maintain, and serve as great motivation for bigger changes.
If you have recently made some small changes at home to be more environmentally friendly, please share your idea and experience with me. Thank you!
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Tags: conservation, environment, home, recycling