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What does the future hold?

The month of November has served as a month of awareness on waste disposal and in particular reducing, reusing and recycling. Lyon County residents work so very hard on recycling which is probably the easiest of the three “R’s” and I am seeing more and more residents embrace reducing and reusing every day. However, what does the future hold for us as far as recycling goes?

The main difficulty that we all have is trying to figure out if something is recyclable or not. With the help of the state of California, it looks like recyclers will finally get a break on trying to identify if a package is recyclable. A law that was recently passed in California and will take effect in 2023 is that no package can say it is recyclable if there is not a way to recycle it in any given community in California. This puts finding out the facts back on the manufacturer of the product to make sure their item can be recycled before putting the recycling label on it. Hopefully this will take hold in other areas of the U.S. too.

The plastic resin code (a triangle with 3 chasing arrows and a number inside the triangle) only tells us what kind of plastic it is. It does not tell us that it is recyclable. There is often other messaging on packaging that says whether a package is recyclable. This is often right in some parts of the U.S. and not right in other parts of the U.S. Therefore, it leaves recyclers still guessing.

A good way to figure out if a package is recyclable is to stop looking at the messaging on the packaging and think of it this way, which is much simpler. The only items that are recyclable in our curbside carts and the community recycling containers are all kinds of paper and cardboard and empty, clean, food containers. So asking ourselves, is this a food container? If it is yes, then it goes in, if no then it is not recyclable and it is trash.

A couple of examples is furnace filters — is it a food container? No. Is it paper? Yes but it is not newspaper, school papers and the like? Then, no, it is trash. Another example is empty oil containers: is it a food container? No, then it is trash. In addition, a last example, plastic or metal clothes hangers: is it a food container — no. Is it paper — no. It is trash only.

Yes, it is true that you can donate some items such as those metal or plastic clothes hangers to thrift stores or other places. Alternatively, try to give them away to someone who could use them. At the county, we recycle mattresses but there are many that are still in good condition that could be given away to those in need. Try posting such items on a Pay It Forward Facebook page to see if someone could use the gently used items that you might have. A good question to ask when giving items away is if you would give it away to a family member, if no, then it should be disposed of properly. If yes, then it would be a good candidate for reuse elsewhere.

Recycling is only part of the answer when it comes to waste reduction. The key important thing to remember is that it is not necessarily about how much we can recycle everyday but what else we can do to reduce waste going into the landfill. Once something goes into the landfill, it is there for eternity, but once something has been recycled or reused, it saves on not only landfill space but also other things such as water, fuel and other environmental issues.

Keep America Beautiful states that a recycler generates 2 pounds of trash a day versus a non-recycler who generates 4 pounds of trash a day. This equals approximately 16 pickup loads of trash in a recycler’s lifetime while non-recyclers generates over 64 pickup loads of trash in their lifetime. While sometimes recycling can be difficult, it also is worth it every day!

For more information on reducing, reusing or recycling, please call the Environmental office at (507) 532-8210.

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