Drop-Off Center

Educators & Community Organizers

What’s this picture got to do with teaching the truth about trash?

Obviously the recycling program pictured here was transparent; single stream collections programs are not. Did you know America’s biggest recycling importer, China, is rejecting our trashed recycling, especially paper and plastic? Our recycling got trashed with single stream, the collection method in which all recyclables are tossed together in a single compartment truck.

Single stream was initiated by garbage haulers, not end-users. End-users are the companies trying to make new products from our recyclables. End-users are the most important players in recycling. They’ve been wrestling with the single stream mess for over a decade.

The single stream mess is a great wake up call regarding Three R education. If everyone on our planet consumed at the rate Americans do, it’d take 5 Planet Earths to meet the demands of all 7,000,000,000 citizens. Instead of teaching that recycling comes after reduction and reuse, we’ve been green-washed into thinking that BUY! BUY! BUY! is okay, as long as we recycle.

How do you define recycling? It used to mean that an item got made into something new and re-entered the market place. Recycling used to result in a lower carbon footprint as fewer virgin resources were needed in producing salable items. Can you confirm whether your recyclables are being made into something new, landfilled, used as landfill cover (glass), or burned as fuel in a manufacturing facility? Even worse, are your recyclables being shipped overseas to a developing country with weak or non-existent child-labor or environmental laws?

Recycling can be the hook to get citizens curious about reduction, reuse, resiliency, etc. However, if your collected recyclables are incinerated, landfilled, etc. without public knowledge and approval, your whole Three R program will lose public trust. Trust is gained when we teach people to think, question and act “beyond the recycle bin”.

Every community needs a recycling transparency/accountability ordinance!
Learn about Arkansas’ Recycling Accountability House Resolution 1043 at AR HR 1043

If we are going to teach resiliency, conservation, and compassion, then we must commit to ongoing education. Aren’t your local food-growing groups transparent, hands-on, and continually teaching? Our Three R programs need to reclaim those traits AND their recyclable resources.

To learn about Louise’s favorite (and once awesome) complementary education/collection program Recycle Signal, visit both the Resource and Drop Off sections. Sadly, Recycle Signal is no longer a model program. But reading about its hey day will provide you with very valuable information. It was unique in its educational approach.

Though retired, Louise still loves talking trash with people whose actions reflect their sincerity about leaving the world better for future generations. She is available, on a limited basis, for consultation. Her focus is advocating for far more transparency and citizen involvement in local Three R programs.

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