It’s official: As of June 1st Monroe County will recycle 3-7 plastics. It’s been a long time coming, but many who have worked hard to influence Monroe County’s recycling policy to include 3-7 plastics are very pleased with the announcement by Monroe County Executive Maggie Brooks:
“Starting June 1st, Monroe County residents will now be able to recycle plastic products labeled three through seven – in addition to plastics one and two, which we already collect. Expanded collection will give residents more recycling options. Now you will be able to recycle drinking cups, yogurt containers, take-out containers, and prescription pill bottles, just to name a few.” 2011 State of the County AddressMonroe County Executive Maggie BrooksMonday, May 09, 2011
We know that this decision to recycle 3-7 plastics was not made easily. Although several of our surrounding counties have been recycling these plastics for years, Monroe County has maintained that there was not a stable market for them—meaning, when the market for these plastics dropped the county would have to quietly landfill them. They didn’t want that to happen.
“An expanded recycling program has been a priority of environmental groups for years, but the county had only accepted containers labeled 1 and 2. The county also is planning to open a disposal center on Avion Drive in Chili, called ECOPark, by the end of the year. The center will accept all waste not accepted by garbage trucks, including prescription drugs.” Brooks points to environment, jobs in State of County speech | Democrat and Chronicle
Local environmental, church, and community groups deserve credit for this change in recycling options, especially those folks who continually included in their events the collection of 3-7 plastics for years where they took these plastics, often times having to wash them by hand, and then truck them out of the county to some place that would take them. There are also those who met with recycling officials week in, week out pointing how the markets have changed and made it possible to do this. Those people know who they are and they rock.
You may well ask, why all the fuss? What do the numbered plastics mean and why this is important? Go here for a short article on the 1-7 plastics: “The 7 Types of Plastic & What They Mean to Your Health” – from The Green Guide Network.
You might also ask: What will this expansion of the county’s recycling program mean for our community? It will mean a lot. We’ll have less toxic trash going into our landfills; instead, these plastics will enter our waste stream markets as commodities. This ‘trash’ will become a resource for new businesses, new jobs, and incentivize collecting what presently despoils and harms our environment.
The expanded recycling program will also increase the stuff going into your recycle bin. Please don’t let it overflow and go into your neighborhood. Stomp it down. If you need another recycle bin, ask your hauler (in the City of Rochester, that’s the City of RochesterJ). Don’t let the solution to one problem be the start of another—more litter blowing around our neighborhoods.
Finally, I want to reflect on what Ms. Brooks said about recycling in her State of the County address: “During my time as County Executive, I have learned that when it comes to going green, there is one stand-out priority for residents. The County has received hundreds – maybe even thousands – of emails, letters, phone calls, and personal pleas advocating for an expansion of our recycling program.”
I’ve been puzzling this fact that recycling is a “stand-out priority.” There are a lot of environmental issues out there and I’ve worked on a lot of them, but nothing grabs as much attention and the willingness for the public to join in and do something as the issue of waste does. What most people tell me when I bring this up is that recycling is something everyone can do in their daily lives. And folks want to pitch in.
Here’s what you can do: Write a thank-you note to Monroe County Executive Maggie Brooks and let her know how important this issue is to you. Encourage your media to continually remind folks to recycle—a ‘public service announcement’ that costs taxpayers zilch. Join groups who are keeping the focus on zero waste, donating, reusing, and recycling. Write to your representatives to provide resources to be allocated for education, outreach, and enforcement of recycling. Write articles in your local neighborhood associations on recycling in your neighborhood. Do the vision thing: Help move our county beyond the decentralized ECOPark that’s planned to a centralized Resource Recovery Park, where everything we dispose of –hazardous waste, composting, toxic metals, and recyclables--all can be brought to one place.
And finally, recycle and don’t let anyone trash our planet.