Sustainable Recycling

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When many of us in California think about recycling what first comes to mind is the bottles and cans that can be recycled for their 5 or 10 cent value. It turns out that recycling isn’t just about bottles and cans and it is important to bring this issue to our attention and examine it because of how much it affects us. It turns out many things can be recycled including: many paper products, aluminum, plastics including bottles and detergent containers, glass, steel, and even many foods that we eat as compost. Whether it is the impact that it is having in our oceans from the Pacific Garbage Patch or the scarcity of our landfills due to overwhelming rate of accumulating trash, recycling has been unsustainable and something needs to be done at a federal level.

To help combat this issue we can look to a mandatory recycling policy to encourage people to recycle more. Besides recycling bends people would also be given a compost bend in which they could reuse food, paper products, and cardboard and turn it into soil which more food could be planted in. In this policy people would be required to have less than 10 percent of recyclable or compostable material in their garbage bends or be subject to a fine. To enforce this policy, government employees would check garbage cans as they are picking up their wastes and issue these fines. This policy focuses on increasing recycling and decreasing how much we put into landfills to help our environment become more sustainable.

This policy should be implemented at the federal level because of how important it is, how it can impact the sustainability of our environment, and because it has been proven to work before. In an article called, “Why Is Recycling So important,” Alex Schenker talks about what recycling is and how much it can make a difference in our environment. The article found that more than 60 % more of materials thrown in the trash could be recycled and reused. (Schenker 2017). By just recycling we cut reduce how much trash we incinerate or dup into landfills by more than half. For the ones thrown into landfills they could take 500 years, like plastic, or never decompose such as glass.

Schenker also found that reusing recycled materials can be more efficient and better for our environment than extracting them from the environment. Now that we know how important recycling is we can look to Seattle which implemented a similar policy to see if it really does increase recycling and reusing. In Seattle, a similar policy fined residents after the third offense when recyclables and food that could be composted made up 10 percent of their garbage can. A news reporter in Seattle, Jennifer Langston, talked to Brett Stav, the senior planning and development specialist for Seattle Public Utilities, and discussed how the program was working. Stav states that the number of apartment tags went down from 71 to 44, commercial businesses from 10 to 2, and households from 227 to 133 in the span of a month. This shows that this is a solution that has been proven to work and if in place at a federal level could have serious potential to combat this problem of unsustainable recycling.

Although this policy could help reuse and recycle there are some concerns about the funding of these government employees to check garbage cans and also the recycling resources for some areas of the country. The government employees that would need to be hired to check garbage cans and give out fines would have to be funded and would ultimately be from the taxpayers wallet. Although this money would come from taxpayers in the long run the taxpayers could possibly pay less for the cleanup of pollution caused by not recycling, expanding of landfills, and incinerations of trash. According to Ed Murray, the former mayor of Seattle, they recycled over 400,00 tons a year and saved $200 million within the last 15 years that would have been spent in landfill costs. This money saved could help pay for these government employees and on a national level who knows how much money, land, and environment we can save by implementing this policy. Another reason this policy is controversial is the lack of resources that some areas have for recycling. In fact, a study done by Environmental Leader and Paul Nastu found that 23% of Americans don’t recycle at all and of these people 1 out of 6 say it is because their community does not have it available. This translates to a little over 12 million people who don’t recycle because the lack of resources. How could we expect these people to be required to recycle if they don’t have the resources to actually do so. Although this is true and these communities can’t get the resources overnight, state and local grants can help these communities get these resources to recycle and in time will allow them to be held accountable for this recycling policy.

When talking about implementing a new policy some groups called bureaucracies or interest can help to advocate and support a policy. A bureaucracy at the federal level that can add to the conversation of mandatory recycling and composting is the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The EPA’s mission is to protect human health and the environment by ensuring clean air, land, and water. They also strive for all parts of society to have access to accurate information to participate in managing human health and environmental risks. The EPA also helps to create regulations for businesses and companies to follow that positive effect our environment to ensure sustainability.

Although they don’t directly state a stance on mandatory recycling they should because of how much this policy stand with their mission to protect the people and the environment by ensuring it is clean. An interest group that could/should help advocate and support the implementation this policy is Californians Against Waste (CAW). They develop policies for manufacturers to help reduce their waste, design programs to help educate the public on responsible waste management, and lobby for many of environmental problem in California. All of these reasons of which I think they would be a great interest group to help enact this policy of mandatory recycling. With the help of CAW which lobbies policy makers to agree with their stance on the topic of mandatory recycling and composting this policy could very well be a possibility pretty soon.

Although this policy solution seems to be out of our control because of the politics behind it, each of us can take actions to participate in the effort to implementation. First, we can all take initiative and lead by example and try to recycle and compost as much as possible to reach the goal of under 10% composition of garbage. This may seem insignificant but as we do this and see how easy and convenient it can be with time we can help to encourage others around us to do the same. This could have larger impacts than expected and can also help to inform people of the impacts of unsustainable recycling and bring awareness that something needs to be done.

Another action that we can take is to join or even just donate to interest group that support and want to enhance current recycling resources. You can also provide insight and state your opinion on what they should be focusing on like the possibility of mandatory recycling. This could definitely have a significant impact on implementing this policy because of interest group involvement in politics and because of lobbying which seeks to influence politicians or public officials on a policy. So by joining an interest group we can take this what is now hardly an idea and transform it into policy and save our environment,

Since this policy solution is still very new and not yet quite talked about, I learned a lot along the way about recycling and composting. Although recycling is pretty popular in our area I did not realize the lack of resources in other areas around the country. Although this seemed to be a large feat to implementing this policy I realized that even just bring this policy to the conversation may even encourage these areas to increase their resources to make reusing material more convenient.

Another thing that I learn in our discussion class is the fact that many of the things we recycle aren’t sorted properly making the work to recycle more insignificant. After hearing about this is when I realized how much other people don’t know or don’t have the resources to recycle efficiently and may not even know the repercussions. With that said I think my view on mandatory recycling has changed and although it does have some potential in some areas that have the resources, like Seattle, others who are so far behind may find themselves in a larger hole. So although this policy can effect many areas in a positive way, I think it may not be the answer for every area- at least not yet.


Cite this paper

Sustainable Recycling. (2021, Mar 28). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/sustainable-recycling/

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