This November 15, make sure to offer your friends and neighbors a happy America Recycles Day! This unique holiday is celebrated annually to raise awareness about all things recycling and waste diversion. Championed primarily by the non-profit Keep America Beautiful, the holiday was formally recognized by the Environmental Protection Agency in 2019. Governor Jared Polis also established the week leading up to the holiday as Colorado Recycles Week in 2019. So far in 2020, over 80,000 people have taken the pledge to celebrate by learning, acting and sharing about reusing, reducing and recycling their waste. But what exactly are we celebrating, and why?
Recycling, to put it simply, is turning an item or material into something new. This happens in different ways depending on the material at hand, but in order for something to truly be “recyclable,” it must be physically (or in many cases, scientifically) possible for it to be made into something else. There are many systems in place for the recycling of items like bottles, cans and paper, but recycling really happens around us all the time.
Think, for example, about a bird’s nest. Birds often turn found objects like twigs, leaves and even newspaper into homes. Hermit crabs don’t produce their shells, rather they forage for shells left behind to make their protective homes. Worms, insects and microorganisms break down food, dead plants and other organic material, the exact process used by compost facilities to create the nutrient-rich soil amendment that can be used on gardens and lawns.
We typically think of recycling as placing items like aluminum cans, plastic bottles and cardboard into the bin to be turned into something else. And while not everything is recyclable, for the materials that are, it is a great solution to limit the impact of our stuff on the environment. But recycling is one of many tools in the greater strategy of ‘waste diversion,’ or finding alternative ways to manage our waste beyond just throwing it in the landfill. This includes systems like composting, repurposing, donating, and the even larger goal of waste reduction.
Here in Eagle County, we have many diversion opportunities available. Traditional recycling for things like aluminum cans, bottles, paper and cardboard is not only available curbside for most residents and businesses, but there are also free recycling drop sites throughout the county. There are commercial pick up options for compost, as well as a residential compost drop off membership program through Vail Honeywagon, in which your food scraps and other organics can be turned into a nutrient-rich soil amendment.
There are many, many ways to creatively dispose of your waste beyond just throwing it in the landfill. The Eagle County Waste Wizard app is a great resource if you’re ever unsure of which bin to throw your trash into. It’s a free app available on the app store and google play, as well as a web platform. You can search by material and the app will tell you disposal options like recycling, composting, donation outlets, and more, and you can also find upcoming recycling events using the calendar function. It may be easier than you think to sustainably dispose of your waste!
On this America Recycles Day we ask, how will you celebrate? What will you recycle, and how can you celebrate every day?
Nina Waysdorf is the Sustainability Programs Coordinator for Zero Waste at Walking Mountains Science Center. She celebrates recycling every day, but today she will finally recycle some textiles that have been piling up.