Making a Difference – One Piece of Trash at a Time
You’ve probably heard the story “The Star Thrower” by Loren Eiseley at some point. It’s the one where a man is throwing stranded starfish back into the ocean one by one and when told it won’t make a difference, he replies, “It made a difference to that one.” Every day each one of us is also making a difference, good or bad, in even the most mundane things we do and yet we often don’t realize it. For instance, when you are throwing a glass bottle into your recyclables, you are saving enough energy to “run a 100 watt light bulb for 4 hours”(Recycling Revolution). When your alarm clock needs new batteries and you simply toss the old ones into the garbage, you are actually contributing to the addition of potentially hazardous compounds to the air that we breathe and the water that we drink. I try to be mindful about recycling and the way I discard of my trash because I know that in some small way my efforts are actually helping this earth and my fellow human beings. I also know that my small efforts are a part of one big effort that millions of people partake in, and that makes a big difference!
Because the majority of us are pretty savvy when it comes to the basic recycling components (cans, paper and such), I thought I would touch upon items that people usually don’t think about recycling, as well as items that if discarded improperly can have a negative impact on our environment. After all, the more you know, the more mindful you can be, thus keeping your environment safer.
Having graduated from college as an English major, it pains me to see books in the garbage! Used books in good condition can be donated to your local library. Depending on the library, the books are reused in different ways. Sometimes they are put on the shelves, sometimes they are sold and the funds are used to support the library, and sometimes they are given to charity.
Among other things, batteries contribute to heavy metals that potentially may leach from solid waste landfills (EHSO). For hazardous waste material, such as batteries, compact fluorescent light bulbs or fertilizers, go to http://www.Earth911.com. Type in your zip code and you’ll get a list of places you can bring these items in to recycle. I was surprised to see how many local locations there are accepting these items. For instance, libraries are one place that often accept the alkaline, or single use batteries. Because it wouldn’t be practical to drive to one of these places for every battery or light bulb that needs replacing, keep a box in a safe place away from children or pets where you keep a collection. Once the box is full discard of them all at once!
According to many State Departments of Public Health and Environment, throwing fertilizer in your trashcan is the least desirable method of getting rid of it. The solution? Only buy what you need and if you have extra see if a neighbor can use it. Otherwise, you should dispose of it through your town’s Household Hazardous Waste Collection Program. On a side note, this should make you think twice about using non-organic fertilizer on your lawn, especially if it is a place where children and pets play. Fertilizers and pesticides have been linked to the increase of childhood leukemia and brain cancer. Really, it’s best to find an alternative option to chemical fertilizers because just using them causes damage to the earth.
So you can’t recycle medication, but you can save the water that we drink from becoming contaminated. When medicine containing any form of mercury is flushed down the toilet, it ends up in our waterways (where it comes to us via the water we drink and the fish we eat) and when thrown in the garbage, it ends up in the air we breathe. Mercury turns into methylmercury, which is extremely toxic. To discard of medication properly, take it to your local police department where they will dispose of it safely.
Even the smallest step forward is a step in the right direction. By recycling and helping to discard of hazardous waste properly, you are helping to make a positive difference in both our present and our future.