On a sunny afternoon in Broomfield,Colo., my family and I had just finished lunch when a friend of my wife joined us on the sunny concrete patio. As we visited the conversation touched on my job and recycling in general. The friend asked me, “Is it worth it?” “Yes,” I replied with why I thought so.
Ask a stranger on the street the same question. I’d venture that at least six out of ten people would also say yes. At least four of those people probably recycle regularly and the other two
(maybe three on a good day) agree with recycling in principle.
Whether or not to recycle really is a personal question. It comes down to whether the practice is worth the time for the perceived benefit. A person can look up how many tons are kept out of the landfill or how much natural resources recycling saves, but that half hour a week to take a bag to the Keep Alliance Beautiful recycling trailers may still seem like too much of a hassle.
Manufacturing, whether making new pop bottles or cardboard boxes, has come to depend on a certain percentage of recycled material. If all recycling ceased tomorrow would it affect the cost of a 20 ouncer of Mt. Dew or shipping costs for that latest Amazon order? I don’t know the answer. Perhaps if there was a publicized link between lower product costs and recycling more people would say “it’s worth it.”
I believe recycling IS worth an individual’s time. The practice can become a habit with a little effort that will soon be part of the daily routine. It does take a few seconds more to rinse a can, bottle or jar, or break down a box though not much time than simply throwing the same items away. With KAB’s curbside program everything can be thrown into a single rollout container -- just like the trash.
Saving resources is a big selling point for me. At the recycling center when we bale plastic, the bales (mostly consisting of bottles) weigh hundreds of pounds. According to livescience.com, it takes roughly .4 gallons of crude oil to make one pound of plastic. The website goes on to note that around 8 percent of the oil that comes out of the ground is used to make plastic. That percentage could shrink if more people committed to recycling.
A man-on-the-street survey could also turn up a few “no” responses because of distrust in America’s recycling industry. National news stories have attempted to discredit the overall process on several occasions during the past few years. Some coverage has focused on communities where recyclers have pulled out or municipalities have significantly reduced services. In response I suggest doing your own research and considering the source of the recycling news. I can only speak on behalf of KAB. Here, (non-contaminated/clean and accepted) materials are collected, sorted and prepared for shipping in the recycling supply chain. We have continued to expand the types of materials taken and have increased our staff to handle an upward trend in recycling that has been evident for the past several years or more.
Recycling takes more effort in other places, I realize that. Despite decades of momentum there are places, some not so small, where it simply does not exist. Look no further than the Sandhills. Thedford residents have access to recycling, people living in Rushville do not. Would recycling be worth it for our neighbors on Highway 20? For rural Nebraska it takes initiative and funding. I hope that towns in our area say yes to recycling. There are currently 21 Keep America Beautiful affiliates in our state covering 70-85 percent of the population. If your area lacks recycling contact the nearest affiliate for information.