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The U.S. has regressed in waste management practices. Recycling went to hell in a hand basket when elected officials drank the single stream Kool-Aid. Remember, single stream was initiated by major garbage haulers, an industry that profits when we generate waste.
Who will lose, if we reuse? Garbage haulers. Combined revenue of the top two haulers in 2021 was over $28,000,000,000. Yes, twenty-eight billion dollars. And that’s just the top two haulers. You think they want us to reduce and reuse? Really?
Single stream has so disconnected citizens from the garbage disposal and recycling processes that residents don’t think beyond their garbage or recycling bins. Single stream is the antithesis of the original waste reduction programs, which emphasized how our lifestyle, consumer and disposal choices affect others.
SOLUTIONS Pay As You Throw (PAYT) garbage collection and recycling transparency ordinances must become the norm. Citizens need to see, in real time, what is being dumped from both garbage and recycling trucks. Seeing is believing.
We need to maximize recycling drop off centers, with segregated bins, and minimize curbside collection. That would reduce some heavy truck traffic on residential streets and thus cut down on wear and tear on those streets. And segregated bins means less contamination and higher prices paid for recyclables.
Drop off centers should be park-like educational centers promoting waste reduction, reuse, repair, etc. Drop off centers should provide volunteer opportunities for citizens to see firsthand what it takes to collect marketable recyclables. Students need to be volunteering for class credit. Senior citizens make terrific volunteers.
Volunteers make the best peer teachers. Get volunteers involved and watch your contamination rates go down. Technology alone will not clean up the planet, a conservation ethic is essential. Finally, production of unnecessary plastics must cease.
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