Tuesday, 20 August 2013

To Recycle or Not to Recycle: That is the Question

Why Recycle
I was away only a few short days, only to come home to a husband who has completely forgotten how to recycle.  I am, by know means, the Queen of Recycle but at least I put in the effort.  I recognize that by living in the country recycling isn't quite as easy.  We have no blue box with a large truck coming along to empty it on a regular basis.  Instead, we have a garage filled with large cardboard boxes for metal, paper, plastics and cardboard and, when they become full, it's our job to haul everything to the recycle depot.  So it does take a bit of space and time but nothing I would consider excessive.

You might be asking where the glass went--why we aren't recycling it; unfortunately, our municipality doesn't recycle glass as there doesn't appear to much of a market for it, even though one of it's best uses is in the oil & gas industry.   Glass may not be toxic but it still takes up space in the landfill.  I try to reuse where I can but that isn't quite the answer either. In 2005, the average household in Regina, Saskatchewan recycled about 80 pounds of glass and 25 to 30 pounds of plastic.  Two years later, the figures were vastly different -- 25 pounds of glass and over 80 pounds of plastic coming out of a household.  I wonder what those statistics are today, when almost everything we purchase is plastic or is at least wrapped in plastic.  Glass is also very expensive to sort.   Some facilities take clean, clear glass which it finely crushes to mix into reflective highway paint. However, if glass collection bins become contaminated by different-coloured glass and garbage, the glass is no longer suitable for that purpose.  Although eturning it to its primary state of sand aggregate may seem logical, particularly in Alberta, it also seems to be the least advantageous and most expensive way of recycling.

Back to the basics of 'to recycle or not to recycle':  the thing is, because something costs, doesn't necessarily make it a bad idea.  Ultimately, the consumer pays for it at one end or the other so why not just do it right in the first place?  We can pay for it now with our pocketbooks or pay for it later with our health, as well as the health of generations to come.


Why recycle?  My goal is to protect our land and cut costs at the landfill but it also allows for re-use of certain products, thereby saving on our raw resources.  Though perhaps not the most glamorous of occupations, recycling also provides jobs.  Approximately 60% of our rubbish thrown away today could be recycled.  A survey suggests 9 out of 10 people surveyed said they would recycle more if it was easier. How easy does it have to be, is the question.  Taking just a moment to put your newspaper, soda can and glass spaghetti jar in the recycling bin will save everyone years in environmental harm from production of new materials, over crowded landfills and the depletion of our natural resources.

So, for now, while my husband may have taken the easy way while I was out of sight, I'M BACK! and so is he; back to separating, composting, stockpiling and, eventually (perhaps grumbling) he'll accept the chore of helping me load it all up for a trip to the transfer station.  In the end, it's all worth it, but we still have a L O N G way to go.