recycling bins

Waste Not, Want Not? Recycling in Your Area and Around the Nation

Article by Shannon Gray and Carolyn Anthon.

Recycling means different things to different people. For some, it is second nature to separate every paper, glass, plastic, and aluminum item from regular trash. Others simply don’t bother. While many are familiar with the outcome of not recycling (haven’t we all seen images of the tortured waterbirds and sea turtles entangled in our waste?), how many of us really understand what actually happens with those materials we set aside to be recycled? Words like the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” are enough to make us think twice about throwing away plastics numbered 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 7. But are our efforts really worth the trouble? How much of the stuff in the recycling bin actually gets recycled?


Recycling in New York City.

Both of us unquestionably, to a fault, separate every last piece of paper, cardboard, plastic, glass and aluminum. Shannon lives in New York City where she finds sorting and saving to be quite the undertaking. Real estate is not cheap, so excessive space for storing recyclables is generally not abundant. And since recycling is only picked up once a week in NYC, it begins to take up a lot of said real estate in the tiny space that Shannon can afford. Carolyn lives in a less urban area and consequently has more space for storing recyclables between weekly pick-ups. However, she still wonders just how many contents of her recycling bin actually get repurposed.

After contemplating this issue, we realized how many gaps we had in our knowledge of something we so wholeheartedly take part in.  So we started to ask the “hard questions.”  What actually gets recycled? Does that recycling actually have a quantifiable impact? Since we didn’t know the answers to these questions, we wondered if there was a better way to disseminate this information to the public.  When Shannon tried to research the issues locally, the results were utterly overwhelming, and she’s an environmentalist – imagine how the average citizen must feel!

We intend to tackle the recycling questions mentioned above, among others, in an upcoming recycling series on the blog. What are some of your recycling questions and concerns? Are you familiar with the specifics to your area?  Hopefully these and many other perplexing questions will be answered.

Shannon and Carolyn are self-diagnosed recycling addicts and look forward to demystifying the process together.

2 Responses to “Waste Not, Want Not? Recycling in Your Area and Around the Nation”
  1. Sinead Goldman says:

    Thanks Carloyn and Shannon! I’d be interested to hear about what actually happens at a recycling plant and, if available, maybe some stats about the energy that is needed to run a recycling process. How efficient is it? Looking forward to seeing where you take this series!

  2. David says:

    Recycling is one of those great ideas with an incredibly complex backside concerning market fluctuations for the materials.

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