Recycling Conundrum

We all throw things into the trash, and unless things are separated at their source, it becomes a stinking garbage heap. The problem of waste will not just go away. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle is a basic thing like ABC’s. Why most people didn’t learn to do it and why recycling is not being taught, is a mystery to me.

“Zero Waste is a goal that is ethical, economical, efficient and visionary, to guide people in changing their lifestyles and practices to emulate sustainable natural cycles, where all discarded materials are designed to become resources for others to use.”

In New Mexico, rates of recycling are low, the average around 20% compared to 35% in many other states. In Taos the diversion rate is even lower, averaging about 7%. San Francisco with a goal of zero waste is diverting around 80% for recycling.

Now China is refusing to take millions of tons of recycled plastic, paper and textiles, because of major contamination in the bales that have been exported there. This is an opportunity for America to create new recycling industries, making new products from the saved materials.

Think of the jobs created by making products from the recycled materials we generate. Glass could be for bottle walls, crushed to put into concrete, or melted into glass tiles.  “Fabricks” made from textile waste mixed with concrete are used for building. Paper bales could also be used for building walls. Plastic could be melted into many forms for re-use or converted into fuel to feed our engines. Imagine all the products created from the bales of waste that China doesn’t want to deal with anymore!

Waste Management Company (a huge multinational corporation) contracts with Town of Taos to move waste to the regional landfill. So the resources are out of our hands and under corporate control. We are not allowed to sort and recycle at the landfill site. Our bills for solid waste aren’t cheap, but nothing is being done to help recycle things.

At the Taos Regional Landfill Board meeting I recently attended there was talk about recycling being too expensive to continue without raising our bills. They are intending to either eliminate recycling or charge us all more for doing it. They see it as worthless and costly. They say glass is not worth collecting and even had the idea to take the recycled crushed glass and spread it over the landfill!

Separating waste into wet and dry containers is the first step in recycling. 25% of waste going into landfills is compostable. Many people mix their wet and dry garbage into one container. That makes smelly garbage. A central place near a community gardens could be established in Taos for composting.

Let’s provide for recycling for beverage containers in schools, businesses, restaurants, at parks and on the plaza, at sporting events and town sponsored events, at gas stations and roadside rest areas. All these need containers for recycling bottles and cans.

Must local schools are still serve lunch on Styrofoam trays? Is it economically feasible to throw away Styrofoam containers everyday rather than wash the dishes? Do we need to send millions of plastic shopping bags to the dump rather than carry re-usable bags?

In the business complex where I work are a set of dumpsters, regularly filled with corrugated cardboard. Logically one container would be dedicated for cardboard to isolate it from the other trash. It would make economic sense to separate the cardboard

It’s sad the Freebox that once served hundreds a day, is closed. That great Taos hub that served to redistribute clothes and household items into many hands, is not here anymore. Green boxes from Big Brothers/Big Sisters ( a national corporation) came in almost immediately after the closure to take away Taos’ re-use resources.

Earth, air and water are affected by what we do with our waste. Landfills are like a cancer treatment:  expensive and toxic. Putting everything not wanted into an expensive hole in the Earth makes no sense. Yet all it would take to create a sustainable system for our resources is to agree that reducing, reusing and recycling are what is needed. People think dealing with the waste is the lowest form or work, but it is actually of the highest order to conserve planetary, human, animal and plant health.

If you are concerned with cleaning up our act as waste generators, lets get a task force together and discuss how we can implement some changes.