By Mark Brooks
When I moved in with my partner in 2003, her family had never recycled before, whereas I had been an active recycler since around 1990. Where I was living in the 90’s made it very easy to do, since single-stream recycling was what the county offered. Then in 2002, I moved from Richmond to Buckingham County and started again with a big tub that I put all the recyclables in. They had to be sorted before taking to the transfer station.
That tub made the move with me, and ever since I have lived here we have maintained and even expanded our efforts. What follows is an overview of what we recycle and how we have accomplished that expansion.
Cumberland County has just recently hired a different company to handle the recycling at their transfer stations. There are three such transfer stations in the county. I am pleased with this, since the new company also provides single-stream recycling through their operation in Zion Crossroads.
We recycle virtually everything that can be recycled here. That includes:
- All plastic which is accepted. Right now, that only includes #1 and #2 marked materials. You can find this material in the strangest of places. The windows on the front of some packaging, milk containers, soda containers, medicine containers, detergent, hand soap, cleaning materials. You get the idea. Some lids of frozen food containers are also recyclable.
- All cardboard (starting in 2008). This includes all packaging, cereal boxes, other food containers, etc. We have two closeable bins that we put the cardboard in for transport to the transfer station.
- All glass containers, including our own canning jars when they are cracked or broken. Jars that are not saved by us for reuse are in this category.
- Aluminum. Soda containers, foil, defunct car wheels (more on this later).
- Steel cans. Food containers, aerosol containers. We take the labels off and sometimes flatten them.
- Newspapers. To the extent there are any around the house (we subscribe only to the Sunday paper), we recycle them. At times, there are Boy Scout drives for newspapers, otherwise they go to the transfer station.
- Plastic shopping bags. This could be listed under the other plastics. Most grocery shopping bags are now #2 plastic and can be recycled readily. We reuse these bags in wastebaskets and for storing items in. They have many uses which can prevent them from being single use only. We have tried to use non-plastic, reusable bags for groceries, but keeping track of where they are is the problem.
- Other steel. It has become a popular activity in this rural area to root out all the metals laying around and take them to be recycled. The price fluctuates, but this way larger steel items such as rims from a car or old folding chairs can have new life as a car or beam in new construction.
The best reason to recycle, of course, is that we can’t expect one-use containers and materials to be sustainable. The idea of use it once-throw it away is wasteful and expensive. Also, it costs a lot less to reuse materials and make them into something useful, rather than making things from scratch. It saves energy, saves from having to dig up new materials such as iron ore or the oil to make our plastic bags.
I would love to hear about your recycling efforts in your communities. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.