The 5 Things You Should Know Before America Recycles Day
Start writing a post
Politics and Activism

The 5 Things You Should Know Before America Recycles Day

Recycling is more complicated than hippies bowing down to the recycle triangle. Keep reading to learn how to actually make a difference in your recycling projects and beyond.

63290
The 5 Things You Should Know Before America Recycles Day
Photo by Noah Buscher on Unsplash

It is way past due that I use this platform for more than entertainment, especially now that I have learned so much since starting my job working for the OSU Sustainability Office. This position has been a dream come true for me. In the three months I have been working here so far, I have toured recycle centers, water treatment plants, and given a few tours of my own around campus highlighting its sustainable features. I have never felt so connected to nature, and I get paid for it!

A big part of my job right now is leading OSU's celebration of America Recycles Day on Sunday, November 15! We are asking Stillwater students and community members to look into their local recycling programs to be more sustainable consumers. We are encouraging them to let us know that they did this by signing an online pledge to "Recycle Right" on and off campus.

You can see more information on this by checking out OSU Sustainability's social media posts (@OSUGreen), or by signing the pledge yourself!

This campaign is important to us because recycling is something that is advertised to be one of the best things you can do for the planet. The reality is much less glamorous, though.

Recycling, you say? Yes, I say. Through my job, I have learned that recycling is complex and not as glamorous as us tree-huggers wish it to be. Let's dive into what exactly I mean and how we can work together to make this issue less ugly.

Not everything with a recycle triangle is actually recyclable!

Plastic recycling codes and meanings

Sew and So's Notions

It makes sense that if the plastic packaging my new hairbrush comes in doesn't have a recycle triangle on it, I throw it away. So wouldn't it also make sense that if it does have the triangle, I recycle it?

Look, I hear you. I wish it worked this way! Until I started my job, I thought it did.

How it really works depends on the program in your area. Every city or institution has its own rules for recycling based on two things: the processing facilities they have to deal with the things you throw into your recycle bin, and the companies that buy or otherwise take the recycled materials from the recycling facility.

This makes sense, and I figured the recycling industry worked this way to some extent. However, I also figured that even if I put in something that wasn't acceptable in my local program, better safe than sorry, right? Wrong again.

In many facilities like OSU's, if too much of the incoming material is waste according to our facility policies, the whole bin has to get thrown away. Ouch...

In this sense, it is best to remember this phrase: "When in doubt, throw it out."

If you have to question in an instant which bin to put something in, the safest and most environmentally beneficial option is to put it in the garbage can.

Here are some links to accepted recyclable materials in areas where most of my readers come from:

ResLife Recycles (residential halls on the OSU campus), OSU Recycles (non-residential areas on campus), What's Recyclable? - Stillwater, OK, Lawton Recycling and Disposal (it is probably easiest to take everything to Target, though!), Edmond Recycles, OKC, OK - What To Recycle (curbside), OKC, OK - What To Recycle (drop-off locations), and Recycling in Weatherford.

Recycle bins can't be treated like a fancy trash can.

A coworker and I giving a campus sustainability walking tour

Ilda Hershey, my boss

As we've established by now, recycling is complicated.

Think of it this way: if trash cans are golden retrievers that will eat anything and do anything for you, recycling bins are diva cats that will only love you if their food is heated to precisely 123 degrees.

No two recycling programs are the same, but it is safe to assume one thing besides listening to the list of accepted materials: rinse out your food containers! Most recycling facilities, especially in Oklahoma, are operated by people. Nobody wants to sort through plastic tubs with remnants of your leftover Applebees from three weeks ago. Rinse out your food containers before putting them in the blue bins — otherwise, you can risk the whole bin getting thrown out.

Two words: Plastic. Bags.

A couple weeks' worth of recyclables for me

Gabby Barber

Oh gosh. Plastic bags.

There is a reason several states have banned plastic bag usage. These policies are not lollipops and rainbows, either, but maybe we'll talk about that another time.

Plastic bags, simply put, are awful for most recycling facilities. Plastic bags going through machinery designed for rigid plastics act like tacky glue that jams up everything. No fun. This is why places like Walmart and Target have separate bins for plastic bags. Please be careful not to assume that all plastics are the same!

Recycling is super inefficient. Try to reduce first!

Inside part of the OSU Recycles recycling facility

Gabby Barber

Someone bring me a soapbox because I'm going to need it.

Here's the sitch: Recycling has been inefficient from its first conception. Guess who birthed the blue baby? Oil companies.

"Gabby, aren't oil companies the bad guys to avid recyclers?"

Yes, yes they are.

Plastics are synthetic materials made from varying polymer chains that start out as crude oil. When scientists and private investigators realized several decades ago that exponential plastic production and consumption was bad, oil companies invented recycling. It was more profitable and more convenient to shove the plastic burden onto consumers, and the advertisements of recycling made people feel good. In this process, everyone kind of forgot about the plastic problem.

This is a great example of something Abraham Lincoln pointed out over 100 years ago: "... public sentiment is everything. With public sentiment, nothing can fail; without it, nothing can succeed."

Recycling was never designed to maximize productivity or environmental assistance. It was designed to make us feel good about using plastic. However, the best option is to not use plastic at all. Some alternatives could include making coffee at home instead of going out, bringing silverware from home instead of using plasticware, and so many more. You can find tons of alternative ideas online like these.

Get reconnected with nature to really value recycling.

Hiking in the Black Mesa in Kenton, Oklahoma

Joshua John, my lovely boyfriend

Why should I even care about recycling? Why should I care how recyclable waste hurts the environment?

I don't need to tell you something the Earth can say better. We benefit physically and mentally from the outdoors. Nature does so much for us, I could spend the rest of my life talking about it.

Actually I am. After undergrad, I plan to get a Ph.D. to research tree genomics for facilitated tree adaptation!

Succinctly, though, it is important to sustain our natural resources so future generations can enjoy them like we do. Nature is resilient, but Mother Earth can only take so much. We owe it to her to be good stewards for the short time we live in her home. By being good recycling stewards, we ensure that we are doing our part to protect our home.

Report this Content
Featured

Because self confidence is sexy

And as a woman, I want us all to love ourselves a little bit more today.

1014

Women have such high standards to live up to today. We’re expected to do and be so much. The great Tina Fey said “Every girl is expected to have Caucasian blue eyes, full Spanish lips, a classic button nose, hairless Asian skin with a California tan, a Jamaican dance hall ass, long Swedish legs, small Japanese feet, the abs of a lesbian gym owner, the hips of a nine-year-old boy, the arms of Michelle Obama, and doll tits. The person closest to actually achieving this look is Kim Kardashian, who, as we know, was made by Russian scientists to sabotage our athletes." This quote is not only hilarious, but also incredibly true! How many of you feel insecure every time you walk on campus, or every time you walk into a party? Even the girls you think are perfect are insecure. Everyone has flaws. Sure some flaws may be more exaggerated than others, but that doesn’t mean that the girl still feels bad about them. My point here is that it doesn’t matter how “perfect” you are, what matters most is how “perfect” you feel.

Keep Reading... Show less

With the dawn of social media comes an entirely new character: the Facebook politician. Usually, articles or posts about politics are fairly sporadic. That is until a major event happens. Suddenly, everyone knows everything about everything. Everyone seems to have a very strong opinion. Everyone is super knowledgeable, and what better vessel of information than they themselves? Which is pretty reasonable, given that people’s emotions run high when something major happens. And I don’t blame them, emotions are good!

Keep Reading... Show less
Sports

The Gift Of Basketball

The NBA playoffs remind me of my basketball journey through time

4592
Syracuse Basketball

I remember that when I was very little, my dad played in an adult basketball league, and I remember cheering him on with everything in me. I also remember going to Tuscola basketball games when the old floor was still there and the bleachers were still wooden. I remember always wanting to play basketball like my dad, and that's just what I did.

Keep Reading... Show less
Featured

Plus Size Appreciation: How I Learned To Love My Body

Because it is okay to not be "skinny."

5619
www.hm.com

In America, we tend to stick up our noses at certain things that aren't the norm. For example, people who are overweight, or the politically correct term “obese." Men and women who are overweight get so much backlash because they are not skinny or "in shape," especially, African-American women, who are typically known for having wider hips and thicker thighs. Robert Darryl, an African-American filmmaker, explains the overall intention of the body mass index in his follow-up sequel, “America the Beautiful 2: The Thin Commandments."

Keep Reading... Show less
Featured

It's More Than Just A Month

Mental Awareness reminds you that it's always darkest before the dawn.

5861
Wordpress
Odyssey recognizes that mental well-being is a huge component of physical wellness. Our mission this month is to bring about awareness & normality to conversations around mental health from our community. Let's recognize the common symptoms and encourage the help needed without judgement or prejudice. Life's a tough journey, we are here for you and want to hear from you.

As the month of May begins, so does Mental Health Awareness Month. Anxiety, depression, bipolar mood disorder, eating disorders, and more affect millions of people in the United States alone every year. Out of those affected, only about one half seek some form of treatment.

Keep Reading... Show less

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Facebook Comments