Talking trash: Are we at the tipping point as far as recycling?

If a community already offers curbside trash pick-up, should it be required to offer recycling services?
Written by Heather Clancy, Contributor on

There's a new report out from the American Beverage Association (courtesy of research by R.W. Beck) that suggests almost three-quarters of Americans "have access" to a curbside recycling program. That's 229 million people. Which suggests, of course, that almost 25 percent of Americans do not "have access."

I put the words "have access" in quotes because I think access has different meanings for different people.

Indeed, according to the report, an estimated 30 million to 60 million American residents live in places where there is curbside trash pick-up but no support for recyclable pick-up. You can download the entire report here to dive deeper into all the stats.

Recycling still remains a complex debate in communities across the nation, of course. North Carolina went so far as to ban plastic bottles from "regular" household trash earlier this year because recycling rates were so low.

Sadly, I really think that it's going to take more proactive, punitive actions like these to boost recycling or re-usage in general. It's just not easy enough. Personally, I think many of the policies are still rooted in the past. I mean, come on, what is "regular" garbage anyway? Why shouldn't our entire garbage can be sorted for recyclables.

It's too bad that plastic containers were viewed as so radically different than glass when it first really came onto the scene. We were taught to think of them as disposable. Think about it: It was common practice for people to return glass bottles, because it was a habit. Heck, up until the time I graduated from high school, my family actually had a milk deliveryman, who delivered milk in glass bottles. We need to reprogram people to start thinking about plastics in a similar way.

The point of this new research is that we DO have the infrastructure in place across a large part of the country to really address how we handle all or trash. Instead of considering this as a burden, communities should start looking at ways that recycling everything possible can become a source of revenue. There must be an entrepreneurial sort out there with some ideas.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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