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How Are We Doing in Recycling

2012 September 18

studentIf you look at nature, you would see that there is no waste. Every ecosystem survives on its local resources and everything is being reused and recycled. This is zero waste. Nature has perfected that recycling process that we are still having a hard time to do.  So, I wanted to find out about our progress so far, how we can improve, and how much more do we have to do to reach a real zero waste community.

This summer, I made this as one of my projects to find out how we are doing with our recycling efforts.  I visited my local recycling and transfer station, and interviewed the operations manager to find out about it.  I was encouraged to hear that as a community our level of awareness has increased tremendously, and we have shown good progress in diverting recyclables from the landfills.

However, we still have a lot more work to do. When the mixed recyclables arrive at the transfer station, there are several staff members who manually separate the items and sort the recyclables based on the materials. There is still a lot of trash found along with the recyclables and also there are recyclables still being thrown away as trash. We all need to take personal interest in educating ourselves and understand the products we use every day, how to dispose those items, and make smart eco-friendly choices when shopping.

One fact that bothered me was that every day we are shipping in large containers our recyclables collected from our curbside to factories overseas, for processing and conversion into raw materials to be made into new products again. This contradicts nature’s principle of recycling locally and reusing it locally.
I think that our progress would continue at this slower pace, unless we redesign our cities for industrial ecology where the waste from one factory becomes the raw material for another, and consumers are presented with better choices of products. Although many years of efforts have been done, we have only begun the journey and have a very long way to go for achieving zero waste community. Let’s all do our part to reduce, reuse, and recycle!

Pavan is 12 years old, founder of non-profit organization, Green Kids Now, Inc., founder of Green Kids Conference, Official Biomimicry Youth Speaker, and an International reporter for Primary Perspectives radio show.

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.

3 Responses leave one →
  1. Anonymous permalink
    October 25, 2012

    Great blog….I totally agree with you, we should be processing our own recyclables right here locally and not ship it overseas.

  2. Anonymous permalink
    October 29, 2012

    We need to take care of our mother eath. recycking is one important step we could protoct our planet earth from abuse. Your blog helps to understand the importance of it.

  3. Carson Chauvin permalink
    May 20, 2013

    While it is true that it would be ideal to recycle everything that we produce and use locally, this task is certainly not feasible at this moment in time. The amount of unrecycled materials entering the municipal waste stream often overloads many areas and it is necessary to transport the materials to larger sites where they can be better managed. If you focus solely on the recycling aspect of the problem then you would be required to construct hundreds if not thousands of recycling centers and plants worldwide costing millions if not billions of dollars. An easier way to save on not only the space but our wallets would be to reduce first. When you reduce the inputs to the entire system you’ll be spending less money on recycling, there will be less trash to recycle and there will be more money to manage the materials that need to be recycled at that moment. Te problem not only lies in the infrastructure of our cities but our industries as well. In our capitalist societies we outsource our labor and factories to poorer countries who also receive the blunt of our waste. In America it is important for big business to keep things out of sight and out of mind. All of the particularly toxic materials and heavy metals that are contained in our electronics are sent to Japan every time we buy a new iPhone or laptop. They can’t deal with all of this waste so they end up not disposing of it correctly. If recycling is to be reformed we can’t just start in our cities, we need to start in poorer countries where the problem begins.

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