Recycling: What's the deal?

Submitted by Sudhir Kade on Mon, 10/31/2005 - 00:24.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. You may have heard the mantra hundreds of times - yet one has to ask: where is the paradigm shift in behavior that will make the postive changes needed for our commmunity and our environment? For those who might need a reminder - here are some thoughts on the three R's:

Reduce: speaks to using less - both organizationally and individually - so, for example the company could, like WalMart recently did - find a way to package several of its products with less packaging and wrapping. An individual, could, for example, grab less napkings, packets of ketchup and taco sauce (which invariably get thrown away rather than saved for other opportunities). In other words, be less wasteful by using only what is needed for any given situation.

Reuse: This speaks to making more use out of an item or quantity of an item than most people typically do - for example re-using plastic cups and bags (especially the more durable ones), or composting organic waste to serve as fertilizer. Organizationally, waste=food loops could allow for the re-use of waste as food for another process - for example Great Lakes Brewery using chaff from the brewing process as animal feed, or less-than perfect beer as cooking supplements.

Recycle: This speaks to re-cycling: that is, identifying those products that can be broken down and reprocessed to make new product. Many steps in this process can have disconnects: keeping the endgoal - genuine recycling - from happening.

Just some of these disconnects include:

1. companies producing recyclables that feature 'numbers' higher than 3 in the recycling logo- this is really just a form of greenwashing because these higher-numbered recyclables are so difficult to recycle at present few bother.

2. people throwing away the recyclable products: cans, plastic bottles, glass bottles. a perfect example of this is nearly every bar in cleveland- just about all of them throw out their glass bottles and cans - and these invariably end up in landfill.

3. people not realizing where recyclables need to be taken - drop off points exist all throughout northeast ohio but few know where they are or take the extra time to take recyclables to those locations. A measure that might help with this is a new effort on the part of the City of Cleveland to provide recycling dumpsters free of charge to locations willing to 'house' the unit on land space - these would be picked up via truck service, eliminating any drop-off hassles.

these are just some of my thoughts - anyone have ideas on how to effect the paradigm shift to '3R' behavior? Initial thoughts:

1. inculcating school cirriculum with these lessons and their importance

2. leading by example to create momentum: 3 out of 4 Austin residents do it!!

3. raising awareness of all the information pertinent to needed behavior and action via media or grassroots campaigning (i.e. a RealNEO COIL, or Forum content)

4. Incentives such as tax abatements or recycling deposit returns to shift behavior

Thoughts from the masses always welcome!!

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