Reasons To Recycle Refuse

Home & Family, Living Green
on March 30, 2014

When the Trigg County Recycling Center opened in Cadiz, Ky. (pop. 2,373), in 1993, Howell Hopson and his wife, Geneva Parris, were eager to use the facility. "We had tried to recycle before but the opportunities were limited," Hopson says. "As soon as the facility in Cadiz became available we were happy to use it."

The couple, both 56, used to burn their trash, but now they recycle nearly everything. "It's easy and involves little change to regular habits," Hopson says. Instead of throwing away newspapers, magazines, aluminum cans, glass and plastic, they separate waste into storage buckets. When the buckets are full, Hopson takes them to the recycling center, where, six days a week, county residents drop off everything from used cardboard to old refrigerators.

"Our planet is a beautiful place and it is our home," Hopson explains. "We want to conserve our resources and we want to avoid trashing our home. Recycling meets both goals."

Waste not
In 2006, Americans recycled 82 million tons, or 32.5 percent, of the trash they generated. Thats up from just 15 million tons in 1980, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

While residents of small towns and rural areas typically must transport their recyclable items to drop-off sites, the nation's nearly 9,000 curbside pickup programs make recycling more convenient for some urban dwellers. But regardless of where they live, Americans are, increasingly, recognizing the benefits of recycling.

"Recycling enables us to conserve natural resources," says Ray Empson, president of Keep America Beautiful, a nonprofit community improvement and educational organization based in Stamford, Conn. "It simply means that we have to draw less on resources that in many cases are increasingly scarce and ultimately going to be consumed."

In addition to being an environmentally friendly practice, recycling can be economically beneficial for communities that pay for each load of waste deposited in landfills. Trigg County used to pay $200 to dispose of a load of household appliances. Now, the price of metal has gotten so high that the county can receive up to $1,000 for a load of discarded appliances, says Berlin Moore Jr., 58, who started Cadiz's recycling program 15 years ago.

Individual efforts
Empson emphasizes that every household is important to a community's recycling effort. Individual action in recycling is the foundation of everything that is going to be accomplished in recycling, he says. Individuals, collectively, will make the difference.

Tim Lewis, 37, who lives in rural Alto, N.M., is doing his part to make a difference. He's been recycling for nearly 20 years. His grandmother's example inspired him to avoid being wasteful, he says.

She was around during the Depression, and they didn't throw things out. "Everything was saved, reused and fixed up," says Lewis, who once a week drops off his household's recyclables at a bin near his workplace in Ruidoso, N.M. (pop. 7,689).

""I am reducing the trash that comes out of my house by about two-thirds, so its a benefit to me," he adds. Each time somebody else looks and sees that effort, hopefully it means that one more person will be doing it."

To find a recycling center near you, contact your county sanitation or solid waste management office. To start a recycling program in your home or community, visit for a how-to guide.

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