….Okay, well maybe it technically is, but I am going to throw quick post out here today about an epiphany I had about recycling over the weekend AND touching on a financial aspect that I learned about recycling a few years ago.
Let me state as I always do: These are my personal opinions and experiences. I interviewed some people and added that information in this article.
So, a lot of people in Indiana, at least the ones I am familiar with, either do not recycle or have just started in the last couple of years. I do not believe that it is because they do not want to help the environment (although, I have been told it’s just for liberals and hippies…I know…smh), but they either simply don’t know how, believe it is more complicated than it should be, or do not have the resources. You could also argue some are just lazy, but we can’t help lazy, can we?
They Don’t Know How –Most people truly do not understand the aspects of recycling. They tend to think of recycling as ‘just saving the planet.’ Which, yes, recycling is great for the environment and everyone should do their part, especially if they have the resources available to do so. However, in my experience the education for recycling in small towns is just not there. There are a few that have taken the initiative to educate. However, with most of these small towns just struggling to survive, putting money into resources that do not produce immediate payback, gets put on the back burner fairly quickly.
Sure, everyone knows what the three arrow recycle logo means and that you can recycle glass, plastic, and paper. But, do most people know what you can’t recycle or that most places do not require you to sort your recycling anymore? Do they know where the closest recycling center is located? Growing up, my family wanted to recycle, but I remember my parents stating that they didn’t know where to start (other than the obvious, “the facilities to do so aren’t even close to where we live”). Sure, if you lived in a bigger city where the resources were available then that made it easy to do, however in my small town, it just…wasn’t there. Speaking to my girlfriend, she stated where she grew up on the East Coast, her family recycled as it were the norm as long as she could remember. Which, brought this point home to me even more. It’s not that people in small town Indiana do not want to recycle, it’s just really complicated for them to do so.
People Believe It Is More Complicated Than It Should Be –When I talk to some Hoosiers about recycling they assume that that they have to buy plastic tubs, sort paper, glass, and plastic from their trash, find more space to place said three tubs, and find a way to transport this material to a recycling center. Which, if you are in my home county, there was not always one close, if there was one at all.
Now, you could argue that it is their responsibility to do their part for the planet and take the 10-20 minute drive to the recycling center. However, most people would need to do this during operational recycling hours, after their commute home from work, either load their kids and take them with them, or find a babysitter, plus load up the recycling (because you want make the trip as efficient as possible), make said 10-20 minute trip TO there and then the 10-20 minute trip FROM there back home. This could easily encompass up two hours after an individual has already gotten home from work. That is also stating that the person also works hours that coincide with the recycling centers hours of operation.
They Do Not Have the Resources –Believe it or not, but in my hometown in southern Indiana only implemented a city-wide recycling program just a little over two years ago. To some from more “advanced” places in the United States they probably could not fathom this idea. It wasn’t because people in my hometown didn’t want to recycle, they just didn’t have the infrastructure. Considering my hometown is extremely rural, this is an accomplishment.
Most citizens, according to people at the city I have spoken with, have been extremely happy and proud to join in a “greener” world and not feel so ostracized when it comes to doing their part. Prior to this, there was a county drop-off recycling area and they had some pick-ups in the small towns, but it looked absolutely disastrous. Literally piles of recycling (sometimes trash, because people would just throw trash there as it was not monitored) would be laying right on the edge of town for everyone to see. However, at least it was something and people were trying, but I am glad they were able to implement a better organized structure. The city does not offer pickup yet, however the recycling center is now centered in the town which anyone living in/around the city can make it to in under 10 minutes. Drop-offs are now monitored and they have begun educating the citizens on “single-stream” recycling. This single-stream recycling allows the sorting of the recyclable materials to be performed automatically by the center, thus making it easier and more convenient for citizens to participate in the program.
Why I Decided To Write This Post: Many people look at the Midwest as people who do not care about the environment. Granted, with our coal mines, SUVs, lack of public transportation, we do bring some of that image on ourselves. However, I also feel that people that have not visited Indiana, do not understand that maybe not as whole, but individually many people are trying to do their part with the resources they have.
I will use my girlfriend I mentioned earlier in the post. She truly could not understand/fathom how my hometown did not recycle. She was not being rude, however since her home and neighborhood had always had the resources, she assumed everyone else did too. When I explained to her that my hometown just started a major recycling center a couple of years ago her response, as a typical East Coaster, “That’s great. But, why the hell are they just starting now?” I had to look at her without much of a response. However, once I explained to her a little more about my town’s struggling finances and lack of resources, I believe she understood a little more.
Financial Reasons to Recycle – This is not going to be a major money saver, and as always, I usually try post from my personal experiences and those who I have interacted with. I am sure there are ways that recycling saves you money, however the one I noticed (before I really even cared about being a little more frugal) was how much it cut down on trash bags. Seriously, it is amazing the number of items you can recycle. My family, who usually went through roughly a 13 gallon trash bag every 1-2 days before they began recycling, was now going through 1-2 trash bags every 5 days. Honestly, we usually could get away with much more than that, but some of the biodegradable items would begin to decompose and smell. I also believe recycling opened up some more of family member’s eyes of how much waste they were producing. I also began to encourage my girlfriend to recycle more (her apartment complex also installed many new recycling bins) and it is now a struggle to even use 1 trash bag every 5 days.
Her and I host our friends quite often, and we did not always tell everyone we recycled or was obvious about it, so beer bottles, cans, paper waste, etc., would just go into the trash. However, in the last year, we have set out our recyclable paper bags from the grocery (that is all we use to recycle), and make a point to have everyone throw recyclables in those. Now, even hosting many friends, we may fill up one trash bag in an evening.
I hope to reduce this even more when we purchase a house with our own back yard, as I would like to start composting.
So, here are some numbers I am working with. After speaking with my father, who is the manager of my entire hometown (pretty solid job, actually) and oversees 42 employees, some of those being the sanitation department. He worked with the mayor and city council on bringing in the recycling program. However, he would be pissed knowing I am writing that he was integral in that part as he is a pretty humble guy. Anyways, I asked him how much the average family puts out in trash each week, he stated he does not know the exact statistic as they measure in tons (scary, eh?). However, he believes that the average in our town of 6700, that the average family would put out 4, 33 gallon trash cans each week. He advised that varies and is simply an educated, working guess.
I used some averages in the following equation and rounded to make numbers easier to understand. I used Amazon to look up Glade Febreze 13 gallon kitchen trash bags (as that is where we produced the most) and those come with 68 bags per box at the price of $14.23. I did the time measurements per trash pickup equating to 1 week.
So, the numbers:
4 trash cans X 33 gallons = 132 gallons of trash
132 Gallons of trash / 13 gallon kitchen trash bags = 10.1
10.1 gallon trash bags x 7 weeks = 70.7 bags (I rounded up from exactly 68 bags, to compensate weeks where trash usage may fluctuate)
1 box Glade Febreze 13 gallon kitchen trash bags every 7 weeks at $14.23×7 = 49 weeks (giving two weeks for error and usage) for a grand total of:
Riveting, eh? Now, you are thinking, as was I, “damn, that’s not that much at all.” However, that is $99 a year JUST ON TRASH BAGS. Nothing else. I know our town charges roughly $16 a month for garbage pickup and $2 extra bag fee for any bag exceeding the 4 bag limit. You add the $99 in with other frivolous spending such as gym memberships, expensive phone bills, satellite/TV, etc., and those quickly add up together.
While, recycling,is pretty much free. Granted, you can argue that tax dollars pay for it, but if you want to do that, go on Reddit and argue there. This is not the place.
I found this article while doing some research for this post. However, this focuses more on national statistics versus small town, southern Indiana. But, it is still a really good article!