Tut tut, Boy Scouts of America. Teaching youth to appreciate nature has long been a central tenet of scouting. It’s time to teach them to recycle!
I drew that conclusion after a week with my son’s Boy Scout troop at a 2,000-acre scout camp situated in idyllic rolling woodlands of Appalachia. The camp offered plenty of healthy outdoor activities in the woods and lake, but not a single recycling bin to handle the paper, cans, glass and plastic from the food and beverage containers emptied by 500 hungry and thirsty scouts. (And they sold plenty of soda and sports drinks at the Trading Post.)
OK, I admit it’s a pet peeve. Ever since I started recycling everything I possibly can in my house and church, it bugs me when I see cans, bottles and paper going to the waste stream. Why condemn refuse to spend hundreds of years decomposing in an unsightly landfill when it can be recycled into new products?
Do we need to recycle more as a culture? You bet! Just check out some facts about waste and recycling from the Clean Air Council:
- Every year, Americans throw away enough paper and plastic cups, forks, and spoons to circle the equator 300 times.
- Every year, Americans use approximately 1 billion shopping bags, creating 300,000 tons of landfill waste. Plastic bags do not biodegrade. Light breaks them down into smaller and smaller particles that contaminate the soil and water and are expensive and difficult to remove.
- 827,000 to 1.3 million tons of plastic PET water bottles were produced in the U.S. in 2006, requiring the energy equivalent of 50 million barrels of oil. 76.5 percent of these bottles ended up in landfills. Because plastic water bottles are shielded from sunlight in landfills, they will not decompose for thousands of years.
What are the benefits of recycling?
- The recycling rate of 32.5 percent in 2006 saved the carbon emission equivalent of taking 39.4 million cars off the road, and the energy equivalent of 6.8 million households’ annual energy consumption, or 222.1 million barrels of oil.
- The aluminum can industry is able make up to 20 cans from recycled aluminum with the same amount of energy it takes to make 1 completely new can. Recycling aluminum creates 97 percent less water pollution than making new metal from ore.
- Recycling 1 ton of mixed paper saves the energy equivalent of 185 gallons of gasoline.
Clearly we’ve all got a lot to gain from recycling more consistently and conscientiously. It’s a matter of habit — just throwing the can or bottle into the recycling bin rather than the trash can.
But there have to be recycling programs and recycling bins. I’m writing the Boy Scout camp urging them to put them conspicuously around the camp.
Who can you urge to do the same? Your community schools? Church? Health Club? Convenience store? Don’t get peeved — get busy!
Photo (c) Alx — Fotolia.