The Dreaded R-Word

The dreaded R-Word. Recycling. The word almost has a redundant connotation to it these days, yet now is more important than ever to focus on its impact. In 2008, an Environmental Protection Agency study found that the United States alone produced 1.35 billion pounds of garbage. The concept of over a billion pounds of garbage is hard enough to imagine, but it becomes even more difficult when you realize this figure is not an annual estimate– it’s a daily one. More than 250 million tons of waste is produced every year in this country. To make matters even worse, much of this waste is actually reusable material. Each year more than $7 billion worth of recyclable material is thoughtlessly thrown away, never to be used again.

In the past few decades, America has seen a huge stride in becoming a greener nation. The recycling industry generated more than $230 billion in revenue in 2001, employing more than 1 million workers across the nation. However, we are still far from Europe in terms of efficiency and social acceptance. In countries like Switzerland, France and the Netherlands, recycling is mandatory.

While living in Tübingen, I was forced to separate my trash by glass/plastic, biodegradable, metal and miscellaneous items. Anything that was potentially harmful had to be taken to a special facility, otherwise the entire dormitory would be fined when they sorted through it all (and yes, they did look thoroughly). In America, we become accustomed to throwing anything and everything away in one spot without having one thought about it. Our society and culture was developed around consumerism, so it’s no surprise that our focus tends to lean more toward the benefits versus the repercussions.

Others should be aware of the effects of their actions. In the United States, we have a responsibility to develop greener habits and take steps toward preventing irreversible damage. As a nation that produces more trash than the rest of the world, we should become the best at reusing whatever materials we can. Every local community has recycling centers and access to information regarding proper ways of using those facilities. Here in Chico, there are many options available, such as recycling centers, waste recycling & disposal services, and garbage collections. The nation as a whole depends on the actions of individuals. You can teach yourself better habits to take a stand and protect the world for future generations.