There is a lot of news about recycling in the US. We're here to bust some of the myths you've probably heard about!
Recycling can be tricky. The rules can and do change depending on markets, where you are, and how you recycle (dual stream or single stream). It’s important to recycle right, as too much contamination can cause a lot of recycling problems down the line, and may result in fines or rejected loads. Here in Eagle County you might recycle differently at home than you do at work or at school.
Recycling Guide - Winter 2020 Update
View and Download the Guide to Print Below
Why are the rules always changing? Recycling is a commodities market
The plastic problem
Recycling does't just reduce waste, it saves energy!
“There is no such thing as ‘away.’ When we throw something away it must go somewhere.” -Annie Leonard
Plastics, or more scientifically understood as “polymers,” truly have an interesting relationship with humanity. This material can be molded into almost anything and was first created to be a benefit to the environment. There was an international call in the late 1800s to develop a substitute for ivory which was meant to stop the hunting of elephants and turtles, and plastic became the answer. What then transpired after over the last 100 or more years has been tremendous, yet unpredictable. Plastic is now one of, if not, the most widely used materials in the packaging and production of goods throughout the world, and it has improved and touched the lives of just about everyone around the globe.
Recycling is far from dead and in Colorado it's alive and thriving!
Each year, millions of Americans take their plastic, glass, and cardboard items and toss them into their local recycling bin in hopes that these materials will one day be reused and turned into something new. While recycling has commonly been seen as a “quick fix” solution to waste, there has recently been talk on whether recycling is still a viable solution for the masses.
Originally becoming well known and popular in the environmental movement of the 1970’s, recycling has been the go-to solution to dealing with waste and material use. However, with the steady increase in the human population, there has also been an increase in the amount of waste being generated. This boost of consumption, especially for products such as plastic, paired alongside China announcing that they will no longer accept mixed plastic and mixed paper from Western countries has no doubt generated some worry and fear among people about the future of recycling.
Recycling reduces resource constraints, saves emissions, and prevents pollution
Many people already connect the impact recycling efforts have on reducing environmental impact and landfill waste, however, it is oftentimes less evident the importance of recycling in the greater context of globalization and connected world markets. When thinking about the global pressures we are currently facing, including resource loss, climate change, and pollution, recycling becomes increasingly important as a solution to each of these issues. By better understanding the process of recycling, and how it is interconnected with these environmental issues, we can increase our individual commitment to recycling and work collectively towards solutions on a local scale.
Chasing arrows does not always mean recycle-ability
When tossing something out, many of us are in the habit of looking for the chasing arrows or “recycling symbol” at the bottom which contains a number. This is a great practice, but not all the numbers mean the same thing or can be recycled in the same way. The recycling numbers are shorthand for different types of plastic and refer to the chemical makeup of each type of plastic. Different plastics are created from different chemicals and processes, and the type of plastic used to package a product depends on its function, for example, if the plastic should be rigid and sturdy or flexible and stretchy, and whether it needs to be food safe or non-reactive to the chemicals in the product it stores. Some plastics are easier or more profitable to recycle, and some items with the chasing arrows symbol are rarely recyclable curbside, if at all! For example, a styrofoam cup is a #6 plastic and plastic bags are #2 or #4, but both of these items must be handled by specific, less abundant recycling plants, and are not accepted at many commercial recycling plants.
What we can recycle, relies wholly on the manufacturers who are willing to buy and reuse them
After the expansion of US recycling programs in the 1970’s, recycling was something many people either actively practiced or were at least aware of. However, nearly half a century later, in 2019, the market that has kept recycling alive this long is a complete mystery to many. Like everything, recyclables have a market value based on supply, demand, and the current political climate. Each thing you recycle has an economic value which fluctuates depending on the prevailing need for that material, the environmental journalist Henry Grabar calls this process “The Transglobal Trash Trade”. This “trash trade” is the reason why recycling facilities accept or do not accept certain materials at different times, and why some recyclables are worth more than others.
Expanding Zero Waste one Tent at a Time
Walking Mountains Sustainability was the recipient of a Recycling, Resource and Economic Opportunity Grant from the State of Colorado. This grant allowed us to purchase 10 new zero hero tents and 30 trash, compost, and recycle bins! In the past, Walking Mountains Science Center was only able to provide zero waste services for local towns who had their own infrastructure for compost, recycle, and trash. For many years we have been asked by various local community groups to borrow zero waste stations for their events and unfortunately we would have to say no. Now we are able to provide this opportunity by having our own infrastructure. We are also able to provide zero waste services to events within town’s that do not currently have zero waste stations!
Topics: Climate Action Collaborative
Town of Vail Wins State Grant to Fund New (Small) Trash Bins
Through a Recycling Resources Economic Opportunity (RREO) mini-grant from Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment the Town of Vail received twenty wildlife resistant, 32-gallon trash carts that Town of Vail residents were eligible for in order to reduce the amount of trash produced and take advantage of the financial savings through the “Pay As You Throw” ordinance.
Topics: Climate Action Collaborative