is the only nationally recognized day dedicated to encouraging Americans to recycle and to buy recycled products. Celebrating its 11th year, it has grown to include millions of Americans pledging to increase their recycling habits at home and work and to buy products made with recycled materials.
I know that attention needs to be called to recycling so I don’t have a problem with the National Recycling Coalition sponsoring this day.
What I have to wonder, though, is why isn’t America at the point where a day like this is obsolete? Why do we need to have a special day to remind us to recycle? Why isn’t recycling so ingrained in our life that we don’t even think twice about it? Shouldn’t every day be America Recycles Day by now?
I already know one of the answers. For so long we’ve been focused on convenience and recycling can seem inconvenient. I realized just how inconvenient some people viewed it when my town went to single stream, or co-mingled, recycling pick up. Instead of having to separate the items that are picked up in our curbside recycling program, residents can now put them all in one container. I found out at our town Green Team meeting that this would increase how much gets recycled in our town.
I asked why. I was told that statistically, people are much more willing to recycle when they don’t have to separate items.
Seriously? Some people won’t separate their paper from their cans/bottles? It’s too much work?
I guess I shouldn’t have been too surprised. I just need to think about what I see at our swim club in the summer. Right next to every trash can is a recycling can. But if you look into the cans you’ll see that people can’t be bothered to separate their trash from their bottles. They throw everything into one or the other. I sit there and watch sometimes as intelligent adults walk up and don’t take the three seconds it would take to separate the trash from the recyclables.
It’s clear that every day is not America Recycles Day. If recycling isn’t happening when the ability to do so is placed right in front of us, I know the items that are recyclable but not easily collected aren’t making it to the right places. So my next question is, how do we get there? How do we become a nation where recycling is the norm?
Here are some things I know I can do.
- I can be an example. I can make sure that the pile at my curb on Thursday for the recycling truck to pick up is much larger than the pile at my curb on Friday for the trash truck to pick up.
- I can educate through my writing here, on my personal blog, and other places.
- I can teach my children to recycle and expect it of them. I can tell them they need to fish the yogurt container out of the yucky trash can and put it outside in the recycling bucket.
- I can learn where to recycle things that aren’t easily recyclable and make sure they get to those places. And, when people ask if I know how to recycle something like wine corks, I can say, “Yes, you can do it here.” Or, I can say, “No, but I’ll see if I can find that out for you.”
- Since people still need to be reminded to recycle, I can put a link to America Recycles Day on my Facebook page.
- I can continue to work with my town’s Green Team to get recycling initiatives in place in my town.
What can you do to help recycling become the norm in America and not something we need a national day to remind people to do?