Thursday, October 21, 2010

When not to recycle

It might seem odd to suggest there are times when you should not recycle, but indeed there are times.  Recycling those old electronic dinosaurs piling up in your attic or furniture way out of style should not be done hastily.  Recycling is a dish best served serene: when you are ready to do it properly.

Many folks pile years of old stuff into the attic thinking that one day they’ll get around to recycling it all.  Out of sight, out of mind.  But what usually happens is that instead of finding a time to recycle properly, crunch time comes and the stuff goes to the curb and eventually into the landfill.  Like making funeral arrangements, grieving for the sudden loss of a loved one is not the best time to shop for caskets.  You’re vulnerable to suggestions you might not be in a less stressful time in your life.

That’s what happens with a lot of the stuff we accumulate.  You plan to have that garage sale or give a lot of those old TV’s and furniture to charity but suddenly you have to move.  You lose a job.  Or, someone at the top of your company’s food chain decides you gotta move to the other side of the continent—and he wants you there this week.  Or, the specter of a divorce rears its ugly head and then only the dedicated and few will take the time to recycle properly.

Knowing where to discard your spent stuff is important.  Not all of your old stuff goes to one place—unless, of course, you allow it all to be land-filled.  In which case, your progeny, those who come after us, will have to figure out how to detoxify our environment after throwing everything—organics, electronics, wood, steels, and plastics, into a great big hole in the ground.  However nicely the hole is lined and vented for fuel, this stuff cannot break itself down into something useable.

Better to devise a plan to Donate Recycle Reuse (DRR) .  Find out ahead of time, before crunch time, where to get rid of your old stuff.  There are many places in the Rochester, NY area to recycle and it’s worth your time and our environment to find out.  We are especially fortunate to live in an area where there are a lot of electronic recycling events, a hazardous waste program, and pharmaceutical collections.  

In the future, we may choose what products we buy according to how they will be disposed.  For example, what if when you bought a new sofa a company would deliver your new sofa, take your old one, and promise to recycle it properly?  Wouldn’t you be more likely to shop there first for a sofa?  Until then, continually recycle stuff and don’t let it accumulate until crunch time.  Even better, would be to achieve Zero Waste and never create waste in the first place.  Many are working on that.

There are, of course, those who don’t recycle, don’t intend to, and don’t want to talk about it, period.  They want to buy stuff and then throw it out—like folks used to do until we found out that just isn’t sustainable.  In a closed system like Earth’s environment, you cannot really throw anything away—it stays in the system in one way or another.  Some ways are extremely toxic.

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