Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Today our Natural Moms group met to tour the Johnston Landfill and Recycling Center.  It was very educational for both the kids and the adults.  The main recycling facility has a learning center with activities for the kids, very children's museum-esque.  After bit of a lecture on recycling we went upstairs to watch the massive quantities of recyclables being picked through, sorted, and packaged up for resale to manufacturers.  Next we went on a bus tour of the landfill, which is an enormous grassy mountain covered in wildflowers. We learned all about how the run off water is filtered, cleaned and then brought back to cool the turbines that process the methane gas which is also captured and burned to generate electricity that supplies both the landfill and the remainder is sold back to the grid.   It was really an amazing facility and process to see as well as to really feel the impact of our consumerist society and the importance of minimizing our waste.  The tour guide did point out that the landfill also feels the effect of the recession because their traffic reflects our economy and how much the consumers are buying both by the amount of trash coming in and the amount of recyclables being bought.

Here were the main take away messages:
1. We all know this one, but please, if you don't already use reusable bags, then start. The single biggest problem for the environment are those stupid plastic bags that are illegal in many forward thinking countries.  I seriously hope our new government heavily taxes their use on the way to a complete ban.  If you do use them, we all forget sometimes or don't have enough, then use them for trash to weigh them down. The landfill has dozens of fences to catch them because the biggest issue they have is those bags flying around everywhere.
2. You can recycle milk and juice cartons but they recycle as an aluminum. (Pretty sure I heard that correctly.)
3. You cannot recycle pizza box bottoms (grease = contamination), soda/frozen food boxes that are shiny. They must go in the trash, or better yet reduce buying them.
4. Only #1 and 2 plastics are recyclable in RI. CT and MA recycle plastics #1-7. RI should start recycling all plastics by 2012.  The state goal is for RI to recycle 70% of its trash.  We are currently at 19% as a state.
5. Reuse as much as you can as often as you can. If it can be reused, pass it along if you have no need. Repair it. Try to reduce your portion of the 375 tons of trash per day (in RI alone!)
6. Compost as much as you can.  Whatever your current trash production for your house is, work on reducing it as much as possible by living life by the three R's as well as by composting.

What surprised me most about this learning expedition was how much Ian understood of it. He was very attentive and can tell you in his own way now what happens to the bottles and boxes he helps us put in our recycling bins.  

RI Resource and Recovery Center
Johnston, RI

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