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The Grassroots Address

November 11, 2011

Right up with Smokey the Bear’s anti-pyromaniac campaign and the Lorax’s tree-hugger crusade, sits the concept of the three R’s. The phrase “reduce, reuse, and recycle” has been drilled into my head, and hopefully yours, since Kindergarten. But it took more than Miss Rhoney’s kind words for me to understand the complexities of this common phrase. In order to fill in what elementary teachers left out, at least the last “R” must be investigated and redefined.

Disclaimer: unless you are one of the few students who procrastinates by browsing Wikipedia’s “Waste Hierarchy” page or who went to Recycling Man Mark’s speech on Monday night, I bet you do not know as much as you think about the intricacies of recycling.

 Because Monmouth is such a small town, it has limited resources and therefore can only recycle certain materials. If materials are placed in recycling bins that cannot be processed at the recycling center in Monmouth, the facility is forced to dispose of them.

First on the list of limited items: plastic. Pick up your soda bottle, milk jug, or red Solo cup (if you have the chutzpa to be consuming mixed drinks while reading this article I tip my hat) and look at the number in the middle of the recycling symbol. If inside the three recycling arrows you see the number 1 or 2, go ahead and recycle that item (if you are not going to reuse it, of course). But if your item has a number above two, or no number at all, its journey will ultimately end at the Monmouth dump.

Recyclable paper products are also limited in Monmouth. Only corrugated cardboard (meaning anything with the fluted interior support) and file waste (including glossy pages, math tests you got an F on and the very paper you read right now) can be recycled. Heavy pulp based cardboard (such as notebook covers and some shoe boxes) cannot be recycled.

Differing from plastic and paper products, aluminum has no recycling restrictions at the Monmouth recycling facility. So fill those recycling bins up with cans of all beverages—they don’t I.D.

These distinctions are important, because the less unrecyclable material that goes to Monmouth’s recycling center, the less money the center has to spend on waste disposal and the more effort that can be focused towards efficiency and environmental benefit. If the center gains enough support, it may grow to accommodate all recyclable materials.

A number of states (including Michigan, Iowa, New York, and Oregon) have furthered their recycling programs by enacting deposits on beverage containers, encouraging the practice of recycling by offering monetary reward. This luminous example shows just how expansive a well-understood, supported system can go.

So remember what you learned in kindergarten, but also remember what you learned from this article. Remember that plastic bottles with a 1 or 2 can be recycled, but condoms cannot. Above all though, remember that every item correctly recycled means one less in a landfill.

Make a change.

William J. Terrill
Contributing Writer

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