Recycling Reality

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Guest Writer: Herb Sanderson

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Americans love the thought of recycling. In a recent study, 95% surveyed believe that recycling helps the environment. Our recycling mentality allows us to justify buying more stuff. American consumers remove their guilt simply by recycling their packaging, stuffing donation bins with worn-out items, and putting their overflow into storage units. We truly believe this is working. The reality, however, is far different. Most of what people recycle ends up in the dump. Not because folks aren’t recycling, but because our government has failed to properly regulate claims that plastics manufacturers put on their products.

But it is important to recycle what is accepted. One business-as-usual scenario projected that the ocean will contain 1 ton of plastic for every 3 tons of fish by 2025 and by 2050 more plastics than fish by weight.

Have you ever eaten plastic? It may sound silly, but it turns out that it's pretty common, and many of us might have done so at some point in our lives — mostly accidentally. The data on eating plastic is astounding. An analysis conducted by the University of Newcastle, Australia, found that people may be ingesting amounts of plastic equivalent to the size of a credit card every week. The primary source of consumed plastic was found to be drinking water. High levels of plastic were also found in shellfish.

Many think the recycle triangle means it can be recycled. Think again. The triangle only means it’s possible to be recycled. In reality, it’s not economically feasible to recycle most plastics. Recycling rules vary widely by community. In Little Rock, for example, the only plastics that can be recycled are bottles and jugs marked #1 or #2. Like most cities Little Rock says to keep theses out of recycling bins: plastic to-go containers, plastic cups, plastic produce containers, plastic blister packaging, plastic bags of any type, plastic food wrapping, disposable utensils, plastic yogurt containers, etc. 

While municipalities may not take plastic bags, large retailers like Walmart, Target, and some grocery stores will take back plastic grocery bags. And some will accept the plastic “film” that magazines, toilet paper, newspapers, etc. come wrapped in. Some office supply stores recycle plastic ink cartridges. Find these local businesses that offer recycling programs and support them.

You can make a difference by learning the rules in your local community and making tweaks in your daily habits. One social movement is to stop using single use plastics, by using alternative reusable tote bags, reduce the use of single use straws when eating out, use glass or metal drinking and food storage containers at the office and home. These are just a few examples.

Depending on which source you cite, there are multiple “Rs” of waste management, including Refuse, Rethink, Reduce, Reuse, Repair, Refurbish, Repurpose and Recycle. While this article hits briefly on recycling in Arkansas, Caring Transitions of Central Arkansas embraces the concept of “Rethink, Reuse, Repurpose, and Refurbish” through our online auctions and estate sales. Contact us to learn how our company is actively involved in efforts to reduce waste and protect our earth.

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