Courage at Twilight: Recycling Buddies

Mom and I are recycling buddies, distressed by the thought of recyclable paper, cardboard, plastic, and metal cans being dumped by the billions into landfills.  Aluminum cans are 100% recyclable: each can recycled results in a new can.  We fill two large green recycling containers throughout the week, and set them by the curb on Sunday night for Monday morning pickup.  Even the toilet tissue tube is remembered.  If the wind is blowing on Sunday, we wait for early Monday, because during one storm all the containers on the street blew over, sending recyclables sprawling across the neighborhood.  E.P.A. reports that Americans discard more than 2,000,000 tons of aluminum cans each year—that’s 40 billion pounds, enough aluminum to rebuild the nation’s entire commercial airline fleet every three months.  I am astounded that we dig the stuff up out of the earth, refine it, shape it into packaging—all at huge cost—and then use it and throw it away so more of it can be mined at huge cost.  About 30,000,000 tons of plastic go to U.S. landfills each year.  To me, it makes so much sense to reuse these materials.  I choose to stow my cynicism about the American recycling industry, hoping it becomes more robust instead of diverting our recyclables to the landfill.  Anyway, Mom and I have fun saving our clean recyclables for the weekly recycling truck.  My sister Megan takes our glass bottles to a glass recycler.  We like to believe we are doing something good for our planet.

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