Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Every Little Bit

One of the things that I am passionate about is environmental conservation. I am not an activist in the sense of people who gather together and march with signs and slogans. I prefer a lower key approach. For years now, I have recycled everything that I can. I started recycling glass bottles when I was a child. However, my motives were not that altruistic at that age. My motive was the acquisition of candy at the store! Back then, anyone could return soft drink bottles to a grocery store and receive five cents per bottle. The bottles would be washed by the soda companies and reused. On a good day of scavenging my little friends and I might each find ten or fifteen bottles that had been thrown behind some bush or into a creek. We would haul our booty to the store, get our cash, and buy a delicious candy bar or maybe a honey bun. Later in life, when reusable glass bottles had been replaced by disposable plastic, and after my consciousness of the limited supply of energy and natural resources that our planet could provide had been raised by several orders of magnitude, I decided that in order to facilitate a more morally justifiable existence for myself, I would have to try and be a less wasteful person. I started with aluminum cans. Recycling an aluminum can takes only a few percent of the energy needed to produce one from aluminum containing bauxite ore, so it was quite logical, from a purely economic standpoint, for aluminum recycling programs to lead the way. As community recycling programs became more comprehensive, I began to recycle more. Number one and number two plastic, glass, steel cans, newspaper, and cardboard. Recently, I found a place where I could recycle junk mail! Every little bit that I save from the landfill means that a tree might remain standing, or a bit of oil needn't be burned to power a generator to make new products from unrefined materials. What if everyone recycled? Well, at this time, practically speaking, there just isn't a market for everyone's recycled waste. It would gather in mountain sized heaps and mostly sit unused for many years to come. But, given time, maybe companies would spring up with innovative uses for all these nearly free materials. The main costs of recycling are in the sorting of combined materials and the transportation of those materials to a reuse facility. Recycling in mass actually occurred for a few years in America. During WWII, nearly everyone in America participated in recycling. It was a patriotic duty to recycle everything possible so that it could be efficiently converted into war materials. My mother was a "Block Buster", which was in some ways similar to being a girl scout, I suppose. Anyway, it was her job to walk around her neighborhood with her little Block Buster hat on and collect any recyclable materials that her neighbors might have. This sort of thing was repeated all over the country. It was really quite amazing, and it worked! Mass recycling is possible, and it can happen if enough people want it too. Do you recycle? Please remember, every little bit helps!

16 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is from WhoMan:

I do recycle.But I think what we (collectively) do is hardly enough to achieve anything. First of all, I know for a fact that in many places in America and Canada the recycled stuff is mixed with regular garbage and end up in the same dumping place!
Second of all, many people either don't do it or do it half-as@d. It is partly because they know their effort might be useless when garbage collectors don't give a hoot about preserving environment. Kinda eggs and chicken.

Where I live, the city has decided to cut back on recycling program due to budget cuts. So they have stopped picking up cans, plastic bags, and glasses if they don't come in the form of bottles. Things like that are discouraging to me who once was a recycling nazi (I used to peel paper labels off glass bottles and recycle the two in two different bins).

11/23/2004 2:35 PM  
Blogger Jamak said...

David Suzuki would be so proud of you! I agree that everyone has a responsibility towards the environment, but unfortunately major corporations feel that this is unnecessary and not profitable enough. I mean look at America, Bush refused to sign the Kyoto accord because it was not advantageous for his buddies in suits. So yes, on a personal level we have a responsibility but also in the grand scheme of things we have to stand up and voice our concern. Did I tell you about Suzuki's biography? An exceptional individual.

11/23/2004 2:37 PM  
Blogger Koozeh Banoo said...

Hummm, I do recycle but I don't do it all the time. Actually I never knew anything about recycling before I came to the US. I took a solid waste management course and that's how I learned about it. It is a pity that they don't recycle at all in Iran. But on the other hand we don't produce as much waste either. I remember that the first couple of months I was here, I was shocked to see how much farbage is prodiced when I do a simple grocery shopping.

11/23/2004 3:02 PM  
Blogger David said...

I am sorry to say that you are right WhoMan. I have heard that sometimes recycling collectors can't find a market for all that they have collected. They sometimes have no choice but to have some of it hauled to the landfill. Hopefully things will improve.

Jamak, Bush is certainly no friend of the environment. However, corporations can be made to change their behavior if consumers actively seek to buy products made from or packaged in recycled materials. Please tell me about David Suzuki.

You have a very good point Koozeh, the packaging of items in stores is really excessive. It helps that some packages are made from recycled cardboard, but still, it seems to me that many items could be sold with far less unusable accompanying material.

11/23/2004 3:37 PM  
Blogger گیلدا said...

I love recycling:) Besides from the environmental point of view it is a cool way of organizing waste I guess (well, I am an organized freak!). They don't do recycling in Iran in this sense, and I learned about it when I was 6 in Germany. However, I think in Europe people take recycling much more serious than in the US! We also have recycling programs here in the dorms, and when I go home, everyone know that they are suppposed to do it:D

11/23/2004 4:24 PM  
Blogger گیلدا said...

BTW, why don't u ping when u update so we don't miss anything:) Just go to www.blogrolling.com, and use the ping form on your left hand column.

11/23/2004 4:25 PM  
Blogger David said...

Asemoon, I am glad that you love to recycle. :) I was watching an interesting program this evening that was showing the demolition and recycling of buildings. Almost all of the structural steel, concrete reinforcing bars, and other metals was being recycled. I think that you are right about Europe. The show discussed how Europe is planning to mandate the construction of 100% recyclable buildings by 2010.

Thank you for the suggestion and instructions about how to ping. I will try that.

11/23/2004 9:57 PM  
Blogger Khodadad said...

David, thanks for pointing this out. Recycling is important, and I wish everyone thought about it the way you do. I am of the idea that recycling, like good driving habits of Americans, has to be somehow enforced, or at least properly accomodated. My best example is the German model. In Germany, all public trash-cans have three sides, one for recyling paper, one for bottles, and one for other trash. All aprtment building owners are required to have recyling bins the size of their other trash cans. City trash services regularly take the recyclables as well. In the US, recycling is an inconvenience! There is no recyling place in my apartment bulding, trash cans in the streets don't have recycling, etc...

11/24/2004 2:59 AM  
Blogger Jamak said...

The government of US and all these other not so enviromentally friendly countries have to set an example if this environmentalist attitude is to be micro managed. It has to become part of the educational curriculum from children to adults if this "tree hugger" attitude is to be harboured. I agree with Hooman, the bins are there but when the truck comes they dump everything together. What's the point?

11/24/2004 6:14 AM  
Blogger David said...

Khodadad, I am very impressed with the German recycling program. Thanks for describing it. I am surprised that in California that recycling is so inconvenient! In Indianapolis, there are various options. The city offers centralized collecting at various points around town where people can drop off recyclables. Some of the schools accept various paper products at bins located in their parking lots. Also, for a fee of $5.00 per month, one of the trash collection services will do curb side pickup of recyclables for individual households. They actually have trucks dedicated to recycling only. In my former town in Alabama, the city has been experimenting with free curb side pickup in certain neighborhoods for the past five years. Last I heard, their recycling program was turning a modest profit and they are expanding the program. Someday, I hope to see an administration in Washington that will push strongly for nationwide convenient recycling!

You are right Jamak, children should be taught to recycle. As I just mentioned, in Indianapolis, at least, school children are being encouraged to recycle. The paper products collected actually provide a little income to the school system. I am curious about the trucks in Toronto that pick up trash and also waste. Are you sure that the trucks don't have separate compartments, one for recycling and another for waste? You could call the city waste department and ask about what you have seen.

11/24/2004 3:12 PM  
Blogger Jamak said...

I wished I had the kind of time for calling the city hall.I just find that the attitude in the east coast especially T.O. towards environment is "so what". Not just on the side of the local municipalities but also individuals. There are so many sociological factors behind that which I'm not going to get into here since this is your blog and not mine:)

11/24/2004 8:46 PM  
Blogger Another Vision said...

hi there, just find you, congratulation for the blog, nice title, we will wait for that.
take Care
Dariush

11/25/2004 12:39 AM  
Blogger Ehsan said...

David, that was a nice story about your childhood. It reminded me of my childhood. Back then in Iran, we would recycle coca cola glass-bottles. Of course, there was no other choice, because there were not enough bottles available! So, they would send the bottles to the factory to be reused/recycled. I remember taking the plastic box full of empty bottles (usually 24) to the grocery store down the street and return with a heavy box of "recycled" coca cola bottles with a smile (and a lot of pain b/c it was so heavy)!! I take joy in recycling, and I definitely agree with you that every little bit counts, even one bottle.

11/25/2004 5:24 AM  
Blogger Jamak said...

Happy Thanksgiving jooni!

11/25/2004 9:40 AM  
Blogger David said...

Thanks Ehsan. I like your story too. :)

11/26/2004 12:02 AM  
Blogger Jamak said...

We want writing. We want writing. We want writing.......

11/27/2004 4:01 PM  

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