And the question is:
Most recycling programs instruct us to thoroughly wash and dry the items (other than paper or cardboard) before putting them in the recycling bin. If you lived in an area that is suffering from a severe drought (as I do), would you choose to waste the water necessary to comply with those instructions, would you ignore them and throw unwashed items in the recycling bin, or would you put recyclable but unwashed items in the trash (landfill) bin?
Around here, we have “single stream” recycling. This means everything goes in one container, although we tend to tie our cardboard boxes separately. We don’t have quite as serious water shortage as out west, but we are beginning to go into our long dry summer, now our standard summer weather.
We had a very wet spring with rain nearly every day in March and April. Since then we’ve only a little rain in May and one rainy day in the past two weeks. We used to get rain in the summer. You could almost count on thunder storms after a long, hot, muggy day, but that doesn’t happen anymore.
For the past ten years, we’ve had very dry summer, often with no rain at all in May and June. We also aren’t getting the amount of snow we used to get, so there’s no spring melt down. Most rain falls in early spring, late summer and early fall.
The climate is changing. These very dry summers seem to be part of that change. It means -wells which have always been dependable may not be quite as dependable anymore.
Our recycling truck only comes every other week, so we have to hold the stuff in the house for quite a while. If I didn’t rinse out cans and bottle, they would stink. Things that require an awful lot of water to clean, I toss into the trash. We may not have as bad a drought as yours, but all our water comes from a well. If it runs dry, we are in trouble, so I’m careful. We don’t water gardens or lawns, though I do water the flowers in pots. There are only five pots out there and I have to hope five plants won’t run our well dry.
More disturbingly is where our recycling actually goes? In Boston, we discovered it was just getting dumped out with the trash. They sent trucks to collect it, but it went nowhere.
Today, I checked again. The trash used to go to local land fill areas, but they ran out of room and closed down last year. Since then, our non-hazardous trash had been going to upstate New York landfills, but they too are full. China used to take a lot of our recyclables, but stopped accepting it about 5 years ago.
I have to wonder if our recycling is actually being recycled. The U.S. hasn’t put in anywhere near the number of recycling plants it needs, so a lot of what we think is getting recycled isn’t actually going anywhere.
In Massachusetts, only 25% to 35% of recyclable waste actually gets recycled.
That doesn’t sound like nearly enough. The rest of the stuff goes to landfills, and there are not many left. The ones in upstate New York are shutting down if they haven’t already closed. I heard we are going to ship non-hazardous material to landfills in Ohio. Who know where it will go after that?
Considering how badly we need these facilities, you’d think someone would be building them, wouldn’t you? I know recycling hasn’t been profitable in the past, but I think profitability might not be our main issue. There’s no giant hole in the middle of the earth where the trash goes. If we don’t recycle, we will die amidst heaps of garbage if we don’t first die of water shortages, floods, or fires.
There’s not much point in worrying about how we take care of our recycling if it isn’t being recycled.