Montgomery Village, MD, December 23, 2010 — On Thursdays, recycling day in our neighborhood, I have to admit a compulsion. I furtively check how many of my neighbors have put out their recycling bins.
This I know is not neighborly. It is none of my business if people choose to recycle. Or, if you read on, is it?
I actually like all of my neighbors. This is the best neighborhood I ever lived in. The people are helpful, accepting, friendly, and to the last one - good citizens.
At home I check out what my family is doing, driving them crazy when I check their room trash cans and extract any object that could be recycled. This is followed by a remark about why they should recycle.
You can imagine how much they enjoy this.
It took months to get the ladies that clean my house every other week not to put the contents of my recycling boxes (in every room) in the trash.
On trips, when no recycling is available, I try to bring all recyclables home.
Being from another culture and generation, I have problems throwing things away. I like to reuse everything I can. For example, some jelly jars make great glasses. Others can hold screws or push pins.
I never throw jars away.
The arguments for recycling are well known. In today’s schools children are taught to recycle, and about how this saves resources and prevents pollution.
Most of us know that aluminum recycles very well. Doing so saves 75-95% of the energy originally needed to produce it. Aluminum recycling is actually profitable.
Some people even go “bin diving” to extract cans from others’ recycles.
Besides aluminum, other types of metal mining are also resource- intensive and polluting. By recycling metals we bypass this step.
Paper recycling saves trees, which means more oxygen and less carbon dioxide. It also preserves habitat for wild life.
It is difficult for someone like me to understand why some people don’t recycle. It could be that they already have complex lives and don’t want to have to worry about one more thing.
Perhaps they see recycling (like energy conservation) as a sign of pessimism about the future. Or as one more requirement that liberals want to impose on the free will of the people.
So why is recycling everybody’s business?
Yes, it is great for the environment, but there is also a very strong economic reason why we should all recycle. It saves us all money. Lots of money.
Trash costs a lot at every stage in its handling. Trash that we send to the dump, or “sanitary landfill”, has to be processed, placed and buried in cells ($). These cells are required to be surrounded by impermeable materials to protect ground and surface water ($+$).
Furthermore, the land has a very limited use after the sanitary landfill reaches its capacity and is decommissioned ($+$+$).
Anyone remember the shop that exploded on Gude Drive in Montgomery County because it had been built over a decommissioned sanitary landfill and methane gas found its way into the building?
Even in cases where our local governments can find a suitable place for a landfill within an urban community, citizens’ opposition is strong. And again, the expense is great - the cost of real-estate in urban communities is high (I’ll stop adding $ signs).
So, in many cases, the refuse is trucked to rural areas with the added cost of transportation and air pollution from the trucks, usually diesel powered, that are needed for transport.
Not to mention the cost to, and effects on, the rural areas. These added costs result in higher taxes for all in the community.
So next time you have the option to recycle, thank of what not recycling means to your wallet. The cost may change your mind.
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