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First Environmental Act

2008 June 20

About the author: Rob Lawrence joined EPA in 1990 and is Senior Policy Advisor on Energy Issues in the Dallas, TX regional office. As an economist, he works to insure that both supply and demand components are addressed as the Region develops its Clean Energy and Climate Change Strategy.

old sprite bottle on sandy ground While enjoying the countryside near Santa Fe, NM, over the Memorial Day weekend, I came across an old glass soft drink bottle. And it got me to thinking about growing up in Baton Rouge in the 60s and my first environmental action – recycling.

My family had just finished building a house in a fairly new subdivision and my younger brother and I were looking for ways to make some spending money. We noticed that the work areas around the new construction sites were littered with bottles left by the roofers, carpenters and bricklayers. So every afternoon during the summer of 1966, we pulled our red wagons around the expanding neighborhood to gather bottles. On Saturday, we would load cases of returnable bottles into the family station wagon and head to a local grocery store to convert someone else’s trash to our treasure. Together, we made about $600 that summer – not bad when you realize that was over 30,000 bottles at 2 cents a piece. Having seen a sign while on vacation in Arizona that said that returnable bottles there went for 5 cents, we tried, to no avail, to convince our parents that we should drive back and get the cases of bottles stacked behind our house.

I learned a lot of lessons that summer, including that even trash has value if you look for it and applying economic theories to environmental issues can be a worthwhile approach.

What was your first act of environmental awareness?

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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4 Responses leave one →
  1. carl permalink
    February 9, 2009

    The idea that trash can be processed, as in the case of “dirty merfs”
    Materials Recycling Facilities, is only barely touched on. Dirty MERFs should be a requirement and they should be held accountable for recycling rates of minimum of 75%. As a nation we are terrible recyclers at a rate of 25% as compared with 85% in Germany, and most European nations meeting above 50-60%.

    Check out more at:
    http://www.enviro-family.com

  2. Antique Furniture permalink
    November 24, 2010

    I think let us use thing like antiques in house. It is one way of environmental act.

  3. May 16, 2012

    In California was have a manadory CRV tax whenever you buy glass or plastic bottles, there is no CRV taxes on other plastic or glass food products, like jars or processed meals in plastic for example, so if people are paying a CVR tax for the environment as it is expensive to pay each bottle but nothing on other food products seems the CRV tax is not really helping our state with pollution and recycling in all matters. I think it should be the opposite to add a collection fees for those who collect instead of paying a CRV tax which means people are likely to throw their glass bottles or plastic bottles in the trash and not the recycle, really does nothing but means paying a tax to pollute.

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