Ask Eartha: America Recycles Day
Dear Eartha, I just moved here for the season, and my condo doesn’t have recycling. What’s up with that? Is there anything I can do with my recyclables?
Kudos to you for caring about your new home and community! It’s also great timing. Monday, Nov. 15, is America Recycles Day. Nov. 15 marks the day that the Environmental Protection Agency formally recognized the importance and impact of recycling.
As you can see at your condo, not everyone in Summit County has access to recycling at their home. The good news is that you have other options, and they’re free! Before I get into the details of drop-off recycling centers, remember that reducing your waste is better than recycling.
A new recycling ‘R’
Most of us likely grew up with the three Rs of recycling: reduce, reuse and recycle. This is a great start, but we can get a lot further if we add a fourth: refuse. Refusing products that cannot be easily recycled is a key component to diverting waste from the landfill.
For example, I began making easy hummus recipes at home, and I refused the products that come packaged in plastic. You might connect with this recycling R by refusing disposable plastic water bottles. When you commit to a reusable water bottle, you’re not only eliminating the disposable bottle, but you’re refusing all the mining, processing, manufacturing and transportation it took to create the disposable bottle, fill it with water and get it to Summit County. Even when disposable plastic bottles get turned in for recycling — just 29% of the time — that plastic is only recyclable a handful of times, after which it becomes trash.
When we talk about recycling, we don’t normally think about food. Recycling food waste, or composting, can dramatically reduce harmful methane pollution. But you know what’s even better than composting? Reducing food waste in the first place.
Roughly one-third of all food across the world goes to waste. Not only does this wasted food account for about 8% of all greenhouse gas emissions, it also generates other waste like the water it took to grow the food and the energy it took to harvest, process and transport it.
Meal planning is one easy way to reduce food waste in your own kitchen, and it often saves money, too. Should you uncover a science experiment (forgotten leftovers) in the fridge — it’s happened to us all — make sure you’re recycling your food waste with the free Food Scrap Program, which is available to any and all Summit County residents.
The process is simple: Collect your food scraps at home and deposit them in one of the compost collection bins located throughout the county. Your food scraps are then taken to the Summit County Resource Allocation Park to be processed into high-quality compost you can use in your garden.
Recycling in Summit County
Now, let’s get back to your question. For those of us who don’t have recycling at our homes, Summit County has three free recycling centers open to residents 24/7. You can recycle any of these items at the Silverthorne, Frisco or Breckenridge recycling centers:
- Aluminum and tin cans
- Plastic bottles
- Cardboard, paperboard (cereal boxes) and brown paper bags
- Mixed paper
- Colored or clear glass
- Soup, juice and milk cartons
- Scrap metal
- Batteries (Frisco and Breckenridge only)
- Food scraps (enrollment required)
Keep in mind that these are the rules for local recycling centers. If you have mixed recycling, called single stream, at your workplace or a friend’s house, those rules are slightly different and can be found at HighCountryConservation.org. No matter how you recycle, keep out the flimsy plastic salad tubs, tomato containers and disposable cups — those are trash.
Now that you know where to take your recyclables, I trust that you’ll keep recycling what you can. In the coming year, consider how you can waste less altogether. Will you make the switch to cloth napkins? How about a commitment to buying secondhand clothes? Maybe you’ll ditch the single-serve snacks and instead package your goodies in reusable containers.
By the time we celebrate America Recycles Day in 2022, perhaps you’ll have fewer things to haul to your nearest recycling center.
“Ask Eartha Steward” is written by the staff at the High Country Conservation Center, a nonprofit organization dedicated to waste reduction and resource conservation. Submit questions to Eartha at email@example.com.
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