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Field Trip Day for EPA Interns

2009 July 28

One of the great things about being an intern at EPA is that I have plenty of opportunities to get away from my desk. Sure, a trip to the Montgomery County (Maryland) Recycling Center – which happened earlier this month – isn’t the most exotic destination I could possibly imagine, but it’s still nice to get a break from staring at a computer screen. And, as it turns out, recycling centers are more interesting than you might think!

Everything about the Montgomery County Recycling Center – the bright colors, the pictures on the wall, and even our tour guide – exude enthusiasm about recycling. “We have a goal of 50 percent recycling for Montgomery County,” our guide told us (they’re currently at 44 percent). The Center is all about helping residents learn what they can do to recycle more; they try to make recycling as efficient and convenient as possible, and they even sort residents’ glass, cans, and plastic bottles (no need for residents to do it themselves!). That’s probably one of the reasons that Montgomery County is inching closer to a 50 percent recycling rate (the national average municipal solid waste recycling rate was 33.4 percent in 2007).

The Center receives about 200 tons of paper a year. Nationwide, 54.5 percent of paper products were recycled in 2007. I ran the numbers and figured that, if Montgomery County is consistent with the national average, then for every 200 tons of paper that come into the Center annually, there are about 167 tons of paper that are go into the trash. That’s not surprising – paper is the single biggest type of trash that we generate.

Right next to the Center is a solid waste transfer station, which accepts materials that the Recycling Center doesn’t, such as oil, point, dirt, electronics, batteries, propane, helium (who has excess helium? Clowns?) tires, scrap metal, and building materials. Just about anything that can be manufactured can be recycled.

In my program, the Industrial Materials Reuse Program, we deal with recycling every day. It was interesting to see where recycled materials actually go, and it was enlightening to look at the tons of materials in the Center – pile after pile of glass, metals, paper, and plastic – and realize that if they hadn’t ended up there, they would have ended up in a landfill.

About the author: Ayende Thomas is an undergraduate Civil Engineering major at Howard University with an interest in environmental engineering. She is currently a summer intern in EPA’s Industrial Materials Reuse Program.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations 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.

7 Responses leave one →
  1. Vasilis permalink
    July 28, 2009

    Point of note, the 167 tons of non-recycled paper was for 2007s figures. So that number is probably lower today.

  2. Jackenson Durand permalink
    July 28, 2009

    There is some part of the world where we can find special species in Ocean.
    To protect those one, recycling in small islands or global recycle initiative, would be a valuable contribution to our environmental maritime. May be, we would discover tons and tons of toxicities.

  3. Michael E. Bailey permalink
    July 29, 2009

    Recycling is one of the best things we can do for conservation. I am a member of the Board of Directors of our condo homeowner association and we just started a recycling program in cooperation with Waste Management Company and the City of Mission Viejo. We just started it about two months ago until then we didn’t have a program. We have had a problem with some of the residents who don’t speak English that well not knowing what goes into which dumpsters and some construction going on in some condoes where the construction waste was put into the recycling dumpsters and resulted in some being overfilled and contaminated. We had our Board meeting yesterday and the recycling program was a topic covered with the City’s representative for the program. As a result, the recycling dumpsters will be emptied three times a week instead of two. Large informational signs will be put on each recycling dumpster to explain by picture, English, Spanish, and Persian what can and can’t go in the recycling dumpsters. The City is also going to distribute flyers on this to each condo again explaing the system in picture, English, Spanish, and Persian and also distributing large cloth resuable recycling bags to make taking recyclables to the dumpsters easy and with handles on the bottom to make them easy to unload. This is a big step forward in the Cihty’s recycling program and one we hope will be successful for many years. Best wishes, Michael E. Bailey.

  4. Anonymous permalink
    July 30, 2009

    You’re doing good job for us,thank you!

  5. Johnny R. permalink
    July 31, 2009

    Thankyou so much for sharing that information, which is actually very encouraging if more communities around the nation set up their own recycling stations. Long ago in NYC I volunteered at the “Village green recycling Team”, which sadly was lost to a real estate agenda. But I treasure the memory and hope for many more to come.

    If Saving the Earth

  6. KATTI EBERLE permalink
    September 11, 2009

    Eu adorei seus comentários, acredito muito na participação das pessoas sobre as questões ambientais a fim de que possamos assumir um compromisso para com a natureza.é impresindível que oas prefeituras por meio de suas políticas deem um destino adequado aos resíduos sólidos assim como se preocupem a cima de tudo reuzir os mesmo e também reutilizar,reciclar seus resíduos.Aqui na minha cidade São Leopoldo-RS Brasil o lixo vai pra um aterro sanitário e temos coleta seletiva para todos os bairros. O aterro é controlado e possui um sistema de coleta e tratamentos de efluentes e chorume através da estabilização em lagoas anaeróbias.este efluente não tem descarte por haver um evaporador mecânicooperando com energia coletada dos gases gerados no aterro.

  7. Nick Norris permalink
    October 6, 2009

    This is a great post. Recycling is one of the most important issues of our lifetime!

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