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Susan Williamson – Please Recycle

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Susan Williamson

In my attempt at being kinder and more understanding of others, I try to fathom why anyone would not choose to recycle, in fact not feel a moral imperative to recycle. Is it too much trouble?

In our neighborhood, trash and recycling pickup is provided as well as bins for each. There is no need to separate glass, plastic paper and cardboard. Food containers should be rinsed out.  So it is very easy for us to recycle. But it was not always so. When we lived near the South Carolina/North Carolina border, the farm paid for garbage pickup. A recycling station was a few miles down the road with separate containers for cans, paper, glass, plastic. We went about twice a month.

When we moved to outside of Winston Salem, we were five miles from the county landfill and we owned a truck. So monthly we took our garbage and paid by weight to dispose of it. We took the recycling to the same place, more often. In this scenario we would pay for everything we didn’t recycle so, of course we recycled. We kept bins in the garage for metal, paper, plastic and glass.

After a few years, a bi-weekly recycling service was started. They furnished a bin and picked up mixed recycling for a very modest quarterly fee. We continued to haul our own trash. This was not only the environmentally friendly thing to do, it was also the cheapest. Most of our neighbors, sadly, paid only for trash pick-up.

The news is full of pictures of plastic clogging our oceans. Here in the Tidewater, our natural beauty is that of rivers and bays and creeks and ocean—why would we not feel the imperative to keep it clean? Although China no longer buys our plastic in the quantities it used to, there are plenty of American recyclers who use steel, aluminum, paper, cardboard and glass. The city of Williamsburg recently decided to continue recycling efforts although the cost had risen, because the cost is offset by less landfill poundage—makes sense, doesn’t it?

For many years, I was an adjunct biology and environmental science instructor. We discovered our building did not recycle and students produced a lot of plastic, paper, and aluminum waste. I assigned a project to the class to contact the building owners, managers and city trash pick-up to see if recycling could be initiated. We learned that it was a complicated process, and we were not able to accomplish it in one semester. But eventually the building was able to institute recycling.

In North Carolina, we attended a large Christian Church which also did not recycle. I was appalled after pot-lucks to see cans and two liter bottles dumped in the trash—the church of all places should be aware of the sanctity of our earth and the importance of being a good steward. I investigated and hit walls at every turn. I feel badly to this day that I did not make it happen. But what bothered me the most was that not many others were concerned.

Our highway rest areas have recycling containers as do many service stations. Most communities have several public recycling stations, seek and ye shall find.

Susan Williamson is a lifelong horseperson, former newspaper editor, extension agent and food coop manager. She is the author of three novels: Desert Tail, Tangled Tail, Dead on the Trail and a children’s book, The Riding Lesson, as well as How to Buy Your First Horse.

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