If you asked people I’m close with to describe me, they’re not going to say that I’m a tree hugger. Most would describe me in very different terms. I don’t spend my limited free time protesting oil spills or petitioning the government about air pollution regulations. But there is one thing that really gets to me. Recycling. Okay, so those of you who already decided you don’t want to read this, you can move onto Jay’s sports reporting, I don’t blame you. For the readers I haven’t lost yet, here goes.
Maybe I’m just used to being home in Maine where we have a really simple recycling system. But I know that Maine isn’t the only state with single-stream recycling. All we have to do is decide if the item is trash or recyclable, and if it’s recyclable, it goes in a separate bin. Paper, cardboard, plastic items, glass – all of it goes in one bin. If it comes with a returnable, you bring it to your grocery store in a bag, they scan the tag on the bag, and you get five cents back for each bottle. So basically, put everything in one bin, take it to the store for money, or put it in the trash. This system encourages people to recycle things that many people would otherwise throw away.
For Maine, they put an added incentive to recycle by charging for trash bags. We have to use city-specific trash bags, with different colors for each city and town. By charging us ridiculous amounts (10 dollars for five trash bags,) people are much more inclined to fill the trash bags with only trash – and recycle the rest. Now I don’t necessarily think that charging a lot of money for special trash bags is the best way, but it sure works for us.
Coming out to Nebraska, I was very surprised. You can’t do returnable bottles for money, which is clearly a bummer. Who doesn’t like to get an extra 40 bucks when you bring a bag of recycling to the store? But what really gets to me is the amount of trash we have to throw out here because there isn’t another option. On Creighton’s campus, there are recycling bins for cardboard boxes out behind the dorms, but for the most part, it’s just trash bins.
What I think is irresponsible is that Creighton could do a lot more, but Nebraska does not seem to have the recycling program in place to support that. The majority of things don’t actually have to be thrown away. If you were to pull apart the average trash bag (not that I would recommend that), most of what you’re going to find could be recycled. Cardboard, plastic, paper, and other items can be recycled but are mostly thrown away because for many people, it’s just too much work to recycle. If it were easier, more people would do it, and that’s the truth.
My roommates and I have been so good about separating out materials that are recyclable, and one of my roommates even wants to start composting, but it isn’t easy to dispose of it all. We had to go on a wild goose chase to find a recycling bin to put the paper and cardboard in.
Maybe Nebraska should consider implementing a program that would enable its residents to recycle easier, because we all know if it was easy, people would do it.