Things I learned at a Recycling Plant

By JEI Chair Susan Mlynarczyk

The Jewish Environmental Initiative (JEI), a program of the Jewish Community Relations Council of St. Louis (JCRC) recently visited the Resource Management recycling facility. Sales Manager Gary Gilliam gave us a tour and lots of information:

* Recycling is good for the economy. There was a time when recycling was done as a customer service at a cost to the trash companies, but now recycling has become economically viable. There is profit to be made from our recycled materials and the processing of recycled goods helps create jobs. Some of the markets for recycled materials are overseas, which helps the country’s trade deficit.

* Recycling helps preserve the resources in our economy. Each time we recycle, we are saving raw materials for future generations. Consider the cost and effort of creating a new can versus recycling. To get a new can, the metal has to be drilled, blasted, excavated, mined, smelted, and refined. Alternatively, we can re-use the metal that has already been refined.

* Your garbage can produce income. Some of the items that produce income for the recycler are aluminum and steel cans, glass, cardboard, office paper, newspaper, and plastic containers. Aluminum, steel, and glass are “infinite” products – they can be recycled over and over. Yet, $2.3 billion of aluminum and steel cans and $11.3 billion of total recyclable product goes into landfills each year.

* Recycling really does save trees. One ton of recycled paper saves 17 trees. The recycling plant that JEI visited processes enough paper to save almost 30,000 trees per day.

* You don’t need to remove lids or labels from containers before recycling. They are separated and recycled appropriately during the recycle process. You also don’t need to thoroughly wash containers before recycling – a quick rinse is sufficient. Use your judgment when deciding whether to recycle containers with attached food waste – a little bit is not a problem, but discard items with a large amount of food attached.

* Bubble wrap, newspaper wrappers, plastic wrap, and dry cleaning bags should be recycled with your plastic grocery bags at the grocery store rather than in your single stream recycle bin. If you collect your recyclables in a plastic bag, consider emptying the bag into your recycle bin and recycle the plastic bag at the grocery store.

Recycling is an excellent way to practice the Jewish principle of Baal Taschit – do not waste.

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