Don’t lose your COOL!

Timlynn Babitsky | Spaceship Earth,X-cellent Cool Stuff | Saturday, March 29th, 2008

by Timlynn Babitsky
Wind power is our “really big agenda.” On a day-to-day level we push our little Earth-saving agendas. We put our recycle bins by the curb each week and pat ourselves on the back for a job well done. Yet every once in a while in our time-poor busy lives, we wonder – Does it really matter whether I wash that one sticky peanut butter jar and put it out to recycle or just toss into the trash as is?….

I get caught by this question whenever I have mustard, honey or – yes – peanut butter stuck, in its container unwilling to let go. I know that recycling is mighty important, yet sometimes, I wonder if scrubbing and recycling really makes a difference.

As if she could read my mind cousin Janet Salmons, an e-collaboration expert from Boulder, sent e-mail today that included some really ‘cool’ recycling facts.  It warmed my heart to see how even my small efforts can really help the planet, for example:

  • Recycling a ton of paper saves 17 trees, two barrels of oil (enough to run the average car for 1,260 miles), 4,100 kilowatts of energy (enough power for the average home for six months), 3.2 cubic yards of landfill space and 60 pounds of air pollution.
  • Americans throw away enough aluminum to rebuild our entire commercial fleet of airplanes every three months.
  • Recycling creates six times as many jobs as landfilling.
  • Recycling glass instead of making it from silica sand reduces mining waste by 70 percent, water use by 50 percent and air pollution by 20 percent.
  • Recycling just one aluminum can save enough energy to operate a TV for three hours.
  • The energy saved each year by steel recycling is equal to the electrical power used by 18 million homes each year — or enough energy to last Los Angeles residents for eight years.
  • If every U.S. household replaced just one roll of 1,000-sheet virgin fiber bathroom tissues with 100 percent recycled ones, it could save 373,000 trees, 1.48 million cubic feet of landfill space and 155 million gallons of water.

Sources: Eco-Cycle, Environmental Defense Fund, Colorado Recycles, Steel Recycling Institute, Seventh Generation Co.

Ok, so I’m convinced that even one jar of sticky honey should get a wash and go out for recycle. But how about those little cat food pouches that look somehat like aluminum foil, or an aluminum colored type of plastic? I toss them into the recycle bin and wonder if they can be recycled.

According to Annabelle Gurwitch in an essay she did in December 2007, “Where Do the Recyclables Really Go?

“The average family produces 20 pounds of potentially recyclable trash each week, according to garbage experts. You have to wonder, though, where does the reusable stuff end up?”

To answer this question, she followed her recycle bin from home to its various endpoints, and what she learned is really insightful:

  • About one-third of the stuff people put in their recycle bins actually shouldn’t be there (e.g., garden hoses, plastic painters’ tarps, etc.,). It may be plastic, but it is not recyclable. These go to the land fill.
  • About 50% of actual recyclables are sold to local recycling firms. The rest gets shipped overseas or to other parts of the country.  

There really is a market for recyclable waste.

And so I continue to ponder the fate of the cat food pouches. Is there a website out there that evaluates new packaging and let’s us know if it’s recyclable? If so, please post that URL in a comment here….In the meantime – where’s that scrub brush? Every single aluminum can, glass container, plastic bag, etc., can actually make a difference. Don’t lose any opportunity to help cool Mothership Earth!

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