Activists and journalists perch in the big cities and
lecture inform us about our responsibility to recycle, while laying on the guilt inducing statistics such as “only 80% of glass is recycled in the US,” and “even though 75 percent of solid waste is recyclable, only about 30 percent is actually recycled.”
So I study the articles and go to “green” rallies and dutifully recycle. I have often wondered why everyone doesn’t recycle, when I naively assumed it was as simple as designating a separate bin for recycling and tossing in our bottles and cans.
Well now my eyes have been opened.
While temporarily living in my hometown of 50000 people for two months, our family responsibly collected cans, rinsed out glass, broke down cardboard and set aside plastic so I could recycle it- the way I did when I was growing up there. Back then I would take all of our cans and sell them- and the recycling center always paid me in two dollar bills, which added an even more exciting element to the whole process.
Last month when there was no room to collect any more- as boxes and bags were spilling out the back door onto the patio- my husband sorted everything neatly and off I went to my old recycling stomping grounds.
Not only was it closed, but it was boarded up and cobwebs had formed.
So I kept driving, and kept driving until I found lots of recycling centers and salvage yards, yet all of them only collected metal.
I found a place that would recycle cardboard boxes, but nothing with any paint on it and no plastic.
I asked the salvager why they didn’t recycle glass, and he said “we used to, but someone came in and upset the apple cart, and cut every one out of the middle.”
So I pulled over and called my sister (master sleuther) and asked her to try to search on the internet for a place that took plastic and glass. She sent me to one place which was supposed to have recycle bins, but they were no where to be seen.
My sister called 3 places, including the state recycling board. No answer at any place. She finally called Target who said they did have a glass recycling receptacle and we were welcome to bring our bottles. At this point I’d been out driving around for an hour and a half, (how eco-friendly of me!) so I came home and sent my husband to Target with the glass.
He called me from inside the store-
“I’m a little embarrassed- I have a shopping cart full of glass and I have no idea where to take it.”
I told him to ask customer service. He was totally uncomfortable, but did it. A few minutes later I got this text:
“No glass. Heading to dumpster”
It is all so frustrating! It actually physically hurts me to throw away anything that I know can be recycled- I feel it in my stomach. But here we are, going out of our way to do our part to save the planet, and we are met by road blocks every step of the way.
This is in one small town in the US- a town filled with thoughtful and considerate citizens who love the planet.
Even a playscape at the local park is made from recycled material:
I can only assume it is equally as difficult to recycle in most of the other 19,000 towns of similar (if not smaller) size.
So I have to ask- why is it so hard, and what can we do about it?