Recycling. It’s something I do, but don’t know much about. Every Wednesday night I drag my recycling bins filled with plastic containers and cardboard boxes to the curb, but I’m not sure exactly what happens to them. I pay a privately owned company to pick them up, but I don’t know how much of my contents are actually recycled or what else I could be doing to help. I know that landfills are getting fuller by the day and that Styrofoam is the devil, but I’m mostly clueless. So when I heard that the Columbus Community Coalition was hosting an open-forum meeting last night at the King Avenue Church to discuss building a community recycling program, I decided to check it out.
Spearheaded by Ian McConnell and Miles Curtiss from the Coalition, the purpose of last night’s gathering was for eco-minded (and wannabe eco-minded) Columbus residents to brainstorm ways to raise recycling awareness, make recycling easier, and inspire others to recycle on a daily basis. Members from the Coalition are meeting with the mayor next month to offer suggestions about the future of Columbus recycling. There were roughly 65 of us in attendance representing a wide spectrum of ages, races, and backgrounds. We were split into eight groups and given several questions to mull over. We were encouraged to explore how to make recycling easier, how to overcome recycling obstacles, and what an ideal recycling program would look like. The people in my group agreed that recycling should be convenient and affordable (if not free). We thought it would make sense to provide residential and business recyclers with tax credits, enact recycling education programs in schools, and launch a grassroots image campaign. “We’re a throw-away society that needs to change its mindset,” one of the men at my table said. “It won’t happen overnight, but we have to start somewhere.” There were some interesting guests who spoke briefly, like Mary Loritz from the Columbus Coalition for the Homeless, who’s trying to implement a program that would provide recycling to downtown businesses and employ homeless people. Sally Louise Polk spoke passionately about teaching people how to turn trash into non-trash by reusing materials whenever possible. She’s currently building a greenhouse out of two-liter soda bottles. Also at the meeting were representatives from Free Geek Columbus, which recycles computers, and Students for Recycling, which helps foster the Dump and Run furniture recycling program at Ohio State.
After the meeting I was immediately inspired to write down a list of things I can do to help in my own small way. It includes reusing plastic containers, unsubscribing from all unwanted catalogs, only drinking water in reusable containers, using my cloth bags at all times, and only buying rechargeable batteries. It’s a start. Now if you’ll excuse me, it’s Wednesday night and I have some curb dragging to do.
*Since I posted this, a friend of mine who also attended the meeting emailed me some interesting information. He said that all recyclables collected each week do, in fact, get recycled. Rumpke apparently sells its leftover recycled trash instead of paying to dump it in a landfill. He also said that roughly 3% of Columbus households currently participate in curbside recycling, but if it became mandatory the monthly cost would drop from $8.25 to less than $2. I don’t have direct evidence to support this but thought it was worth sharing.