Today at the office, I pulled 2 plastic water bottles, 1 soda can, a couple of small, light-weight cardboard boxes and at leasst 5 lbs of paper out of the trash...and this was just from 3 of about 20 trash cans in the building. It made me mad. My reaction was inappropriately strident. I know I over-reacted. But it's just so frustrating.
Every week I take all the non-paper recyclables from my office and put them in the container at our house for curbside pickup. I take the paper to the Abitibi collection bins in the parking lot at the local school. Serving as the self-appointed in-house recycle fanatic is a role I have willingly taken on. Once in a while, if I ask, someone will take the paper for me, or take the cans and bottles home to his or her bin. But the general lack of interest on the part of many of my co-workers is starting to get depressing. Even with a bin for paper right next to the waste can, some of them till drop their unwanted paper in the trash!
Is this a trend? Are people tired of the recycling message? Is it worth the effort? Are we experiencing "recycling fatigue.?
The statistics aren't too encouraging. According to BevNet, a beverage industry website, the recycling rate for plastic water containers was 30.9% in 2008, a 32% increase over the 2007 rate. So, even with a major growth in recycling rates, nearly 70% of the water bottles didn't get recycled!
An article on Waste Age, notes that Americans recycled 54 billion aluminum cans in 2007, representing 53.8% of the cans that that were sold. Am I guilty of looking at the can half empty if I ask about the the 50 billion cans that weren't recycled?
An EPA report says that 28.1% of glass was recycled in the U.S. in 2007, which is mostly attributed to mandatory glass recycling (deposit bottles) in 11 states. So, it appears that about 70% of glass bottles are not recycled.
There is some encouraging news. A news item on RedGreenandBlue, a website that covers environmental politics, reports that in 2009 San Francisco recycled 72% of its municipal solid waste. The city even requires that construction debris be recycled. Seattle had increased its recycling levels to 50% by 2008. And the island of Nantucket recycled at an incredible 90% in 2007.
Unfortunately, most communities are stuck at the 25 to 30% level, or worse. Low prices and diminished markets for the recyclables are adversely affecting municipal and private recycling programs. But why would that translate into individual lack of participation?
Can you shed some light on this? Are you experiencing recycle burn-out? Please share.