Monday, May 23, 2011

#9 of 100 Simple Suggestions... Learn about and participate in recycling programs

Have you given any thought to what happens to your garbage? How does your community Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and Recover? Or do you just Refuse to buy anything that is over-packaged and unlikely to be Recyclable? What do you know about Recycling programs in your area?

There are a lot of ways we can Reduce the garbage that goes to the landfill or other places we don't want to think about, but the primary one is to Reduce our consumption in the first place. It's also good to figure out ways we can Reuse things in our own lives. A friend of mine talks about how her mother never threw away a plastic bag in her life without Reusing it at least once. There's a lot of wisdom there. Composting is another method that returns a lot of good plant nutrients to a form that our gardens and flower beds can Reuse. Grasscycling (leaving grass clippings on the lawn instead of bagging them) gives our lawns extra nutrients and helps them Retain moisture, and saves our garbage trucks a lot of gas! Bottle depots and other Recycling facilities actually pay for the return of Recyclable items, and the list goes on...

Here in Edmonton, we have world-class Recycling facilities, built because our city realized twenty years ago that we were running out of landfill space. The Waste Management Centre is an amazing place, with lots of different building to handle different kinds of waste. My favourite is the MRF, or Materials Recycling Facility, where conveyor belts move items from our blue bag program past workers who sort them for sale to markets that need different kinds of plastic, box board, paper, etc. Edmonton has gained a reputation as a world leader in Recycling expertise, so dealing with waste is easier here than in most places.

I often wonder what I would be doing with some of the things I put in my blue bag if we had no blue bag program, and end up thinking about Mary Lou. She's a wonderful woman who taught my girls in playschool, and she was the Queen of Recycling crafts. She was always collecting all sorts of items that most people would think of as trash to make useful Christmas, Mother's and Father's day gifts. We still use the soap bottle napkin holder Christina proudly brought home when she was five.

Even if you don't have a Mary Lou or a blue bag program where you are, there are always places that need some of the things we tend to toss out. Charities like SSVP will take furniture and housewares. Sometimes it's just a matter of asking around about who needs those plastic yogurt containers or bags. Other creative answers might just be staring us in the face. One's thing's sure -- every item we manage to Recycle and Reuse is one less thing on the top of the junk heap.

Here's a fun tour of Edmonton's Waste Management Programs with Rick Mercer, a Canadian TV show host who makes us laugh. He's the slowest MRF worker I've seen yet.

P.S. Looking for more Simple Suggestions? See here.

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