Recycling is a privilege

We’re all familiar with the concept.

A few participants or bystanders who are too competitive can easily ruin a game. A few students in school who won’t stop talking can mean rewards taken away from the entire class.

A few people doing the wrong thing can ruin it for everyone.

That’s what happening now at recycling sites around Washington County, as people drop off items that can’t be recycled, contaminating the rest of the batch. As a result the Southeastern Ohio Joint Solid Waste Management District is considering closing some of the 12 sites in the county. But recycling –and our earth and our environment–are too important to have that happen.

Recycling saves energy, reduces garbage in landfills and means fewer trees have to be cut down.

Glass products in landfills do not decompose at all. Plastics not recycled take around 500 years to decompose. Those are some scary thoughts if you care about the earth.

Plastic bags, which are one of the main items being found in the local bins that shouldn’t be, can create a host of problems if thrown in the trash. They can release chemicals into the soil, clog sewer systems and animals can become easily entangled, or eat them and choke, from cows grazing to sea life who end up with plastic debris traveling from creeks and other waterways. Sea turtles can especially be at risk as they often mistake plastic bags for jellyfish. Proper recycling of these items, like what is offered at Kroger and Walmart, is important. If they’re on the banned list at a recycling site, don’t bring them. They won’t be recycled.

Also, keep in mind all the people who take the time to carefully sort their recycling items, who go out of their way to drop them off. This isn’t curbside service we’re talking about. Those people recycle because protecting the environment matters to them, because they’re trying to do the right thing. They shouldn’t lose their most convenient option because others can’t follow simple rules.

While we understand the frustration on the part of the waste district, we hope they’re still brainstorming other solutions, too. Shutting down one site may just pass the problem on to the next location, if people drop their items there instead. We would love to see greater options in the more rural parts of the county to recycle, instead of fewer. Maybe there’s a better way to monitor these locations or another solution to the problem. That’s something we can all think about.

In the meantime, it’s not too late to reverse this. The waste district is giving a last chance to those who have been getting it wrong. They’ll monitor the sites and see how many unrecyclable items they find before making a decision about closure of a drop-off location.

If you’re someone who uses these drop-offs, please do the right thing. Check the guidelines, follow the guidelines and don’t ruin this opportunity for everyone else.