Recycling seems like an easy task, right? You have a plastic bottle and you come up on two bins, one silver, one blue. You decide to throw the plastic bottle into the blue bin to be recycled and boom, the job is done. Most of the time we don’t think of what happened after we throw our recyclables away. Where do they go? What happens to them?
First the materials are sorted into categories of paper, plastic, metal, glass, E-waste, and textiles. From there they may be sorted again and then crushed down to make new products. Glass is often repurposed to make more glass, but plastics can be turned into fabrics. All of this starts with the simple idea of throwing that plastic bottle into the right bin. Easy, anyone can do it.
So you’d think. To some surprise, the act of recycling is different for everyone.
The national average of Americans that recycle is 34%, and it been stuck around there since 2010. The average for Charleston West Virginia is even lower at 19.5%, and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania’s recycling rate is lower at 18%. The city of Charleston realized that their program isn’t working and plans to make change. This city currently gives residents clear recycling bags for community members to put recycling in that they
can leave for curbside pickup. But after this spring, they are doing away with this practice. Residents will now have to purchase the clear bags from local stores. by getting rid of the practice that has been around since the 70s, the city will save $400,000 a year. Let’s just hope people continue to recycle.
Pittsburgh also struggles with their recycling program. Residents here also use bags like Charleston. The city doesn’t require residents to sort their recycling. The system they use is called “Single Stream Recycling” which is very common around the area, but its not efficient. If the recycling is contaminated, it’s no good. This means the items get thrown away.
So are people around us recycling? I reached out to my friends on facebook asking about recycling. Majority of my responses were from Pennsylvania, with some from Maryland, Virginia, Connecticut, Florida and of course, West Virginia. Majority of the participants do recycle, in fact 80% of them do, but only 51% of them have a recycling bin in their own home. All users said they recycle plastics and paper came in at second to most popular. Glass and metal were hit or miss, and only 1 recycles electronics.
Majority of the responses said they would try to go out of their way to recycle. As long as people are trying, we are a step in the right direction.