At the park, you finish all the water in your plastic bottle and look around for a recycling bin. You see a trash can, but no recycling. You’re faced with a choice: you can hold onto the bottle until you get home and toss it into your blue bag, or you can just throw it in the trash can. And really, you think, how much difference is one plastic bottle going to make? Where do all those materials even go? Is recycling really that important?
After your blue bag is picked up from the curb, it’s transported to Muncie’s local recycling plant to be sorted and baled. Then, most of those recycled materials are sent out of the center to other places. However, at the beginning of 2018, rigorous new standards were implemented for the level of contamination allowed in recycled materials. It can be difficult for recycling centers to follow these new rules, so they are relying on members of the community to ensure that the material they put into their blue bags is recyclable material.
One of the reasons recyclables contain such a high level of contaminated materials is because recycling bins are often mistakenly used as trash bins. Another reason is what many recycling centers call “wishful recycling:” well-intentioned people throw non-recyclable materials into the bin and think, “they’ll find something to do with it.” For instance, many plastic bags end up at the recycling center, even though they are not recyclable by MSD (they are, however, accepted by most grocery stores!). The reality is, these non-recyclables are making it difficult to utilize any of the recyclable materials that make their way to the plant. If materials aren’t being sent out of the plant, they may have to stop accepting recyclables altogether.
The Environmental Protection Agency reported that in 2013, Americans recycled 34.3% of the materials they used. If that recycling rate were to drastically drop, which is a possibility if recycling plants are forced to shut down, we would see some devastating consequences for our planet and our quality of life. Landfills would quickly begin to fill, leaving us with few places to put the 250 million tons of trash we produce every year. Landfills are the third largest contributors of methane gas in the world, which leads to global warming. We might resort to burning our trash, which would produce even more air pollution and could even make the air toxic. Many of our natural resources, like timber and fossil fuels, would deplete at a rapid rate. The effects of a world that does not recycle would be felt by all of us, and they could be detrimental.
There are things that you can do to prevent this from coming true! Utilizing the MSD blue bags is a great start: just fill the bag with materials that can be recycled, put it in your toter, and drag it to the curb to be picked up along with your regular trash on pickup day. If you have questions about whether a material can be recycled, visit munciesanitary.org/departments/recycling/curbside-recycling/what-to-recycle/. We’ll also be posting a series of blog posts on materials that can and can’t be recycled around the home and office, so be on the lookout for our series, “Let’s Talk Trash,” as well as more information on how to make recycling easy and fun.
Information and recycling facts used in this article can be found at: