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A Word About Recycling with Ollie Maier

Sunday, January 6, 2019

To me, an article in the recent Recycling Today newsletter seemed like a good place to start the weekly 'A Word about Recycling’ talks for 2019. Concerning a recent survey, it was titled: “Americans could know more about recycling.”

The article explained in an October 2018 Recycling Partnership survey it was found that more than half – 52 percent – of Americans feel they don’t have access to recycling, particularly young people and low-income families, but that’s not to say they didn’t want to recycle. A majority want to recycle, in fact, in this survey of 2,000 residents, it found 62 percent of people think it’s a "turn-off" if somebody doesn’t recycle.

The survey was primarily aimed at finding out what motivates people to recycle, what barriers they are experiencing and their knowledge concerning recycling.

Concerning the design of the survey, a senior director for it explained, “For me, I’m trying to design messaging that’s really addressing those motivations," she said. “I call that ‘speaking to the listening.’ Really, I just want to get people’s attention. In such a busy world and with communities’ limited outreach budgets, that is a real challenge that clearly is contributing to misplaced recyclables.”

She, and others, believed that it’s not just residents who need to get on the same page. All stakeholders play a part in improving their recycling programs. For example, the survey showed about 73 percent of those responding felt they could use more information on how to properly recycle items and what should or should not be put in their recycle carts.

Almost 30 percent thought garden hoses and tree lights are recyclable in their carts – in most places they are not – and around 40 percent believed the caps should be removed from plastic bottles – not really necessary.

There’s definitely a gap in recycling knowledge; this is especially true when one considers every home has about 800 pounds of the normal items considered recyclable they can keep out of a landfill every year.

The article mentioned that for about three years, the Recycling Partnership has also looked at how best to combat contamination. While they found several different items, considered contamination, in many carts, they found plastic bags in 8 out of 10 carts. – Although such plastic bags are recyclable, they should not be included with the other recycled materials. That’s the reason you will find places just for them at H-E-B, Walmart, Sam’s, etc. Unfortunately, plastic bags clog the screens and wrap around the rotating parts.

“MRFs (material Recovery Facilities) are being shut down every day to clean out the plastic bags from their equipment and those things don’t weigh much.

This survey was the Recycling Partnership's first in an ongoing pursuit to understand how residents feel and what barriers we need to overcome to make recycling easier and cleaner. Through them, they hope to discover an inexpensive and easy way to provide the necessary information for “creating smart behavior change tools” for all citizens.

Till next week, do have a great one... and may this new year be one of the best ones for you ever,

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Ollie is a local citizen concerned with the environment and helping others. A retired Air Force fighter and instructor pilot, he is a graduate of Leadership San Marcos and received his degrees at Texas State University where he worked on staff before totally retiring. For questions or comments, he invites you to call him at 512-353-7432 or e-mail omaier@txstate.edu.