Written for my Root Issues column in the Barrie Examiner; published under the title "Recycling options are, indeed, plentiful"
A constant thing people proudly tell me is that they recycle. Now a normal part of daily life, there are yet wide differences in how well people truly take advantage of our many recycling opportunities. I often notice people throwing away a huge variety of materials which should go in the blue, grey, or green box. Did you know that used paper plates, paper towels, and tissues go in the green bin? That disposable plastic cutlery, foam plates and cups go in your blue box, and Timmy cups in the green? Many people trash these recyclables.
Separating is also crucial. Christmas may have brought a lot of new items in cardboard-backed plastic blister-packs. Hopefully you peeled those apart, putting plastic in your blue box and cardboard in the grey. (I sure hope you didn’t just chuck them in the trash!) Corrugated cardboard should be bundled flat beside your boxes, not in with paper. And unlike the old days, pretty much all paper recycles, including glossy or colourful wrapping papers and magazines.
Recycling conserves precious resources, but also protects our water and soil from harmful chemicals. Leftover cleaning products and medications should always be delivered to hazardous waste depots, never thrown in landfill to leak their poisons. Batteries must never be trashed – and now are easier than ever to recycle. Most major hardware chains have old battery drop-off bins (in the hopes you’ll buy new ones, of course). Many also take used paint for recycling. Car tires are now free to leave at approved collection points.
The latest wave of waste, but also the newest frontier of recycling, is so-called “e-waste”. No, this isn’t another name for spam emails, but refers to discarded electronic or electric devices. This includes not only computers and cell-phones, but anything with a chip, plug, or batteries. Old lamps, coffee makers, beeping toys, even flashing sneakers qualify as e-waste. All contain metals & plastics very bad to release to the environment but valuable to reclaim.
Disposing of e-waste has become much easier. Only a few years ago you had to pay to leave it; last year it became free; now, you get paid! This past spring, Barrie’s own GreenGo Recycling (“they recycle everything”) at 151 John St. became first in Ontario to pay for e-waste. At 5 cents a pound, it’s not gold, but it beats going out of pocket! And you’d be surprised how quickly e-waste piles up in this world of planned obsolescence. GreenGo also take batteries and paint and pay top dollar for scrap metal.
As you count your Christmas blessings and clear out the old to make room for the new, please reduce waste by getting everything to the right recycling program.
Erich Jacoby-Hawkins is an educator, father, volunteer, and politician.