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Recycling at Diegueno – Is it Really RAD?

Garrett Lee, Editor

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       For the past few years, Diegueno has run its own recycling program in attempt to reduce the amount of trash produced by students. Many teachers and students are in favor of the program, but is our recycling program worth the time, money, and effort that it requires? My answer is no. I do not believe that the American recycling program in general is recycling at an efficient rate. Here’s why.

       For many years, the recycling program has been a large part in the lives of many Americans. The concept of recycling plastic and aluminum in addition to paper was first introduced to the United States in the 1970s. Since then, the recycling industry has grown a thousandfold, becoming a huge part of the American waste program. However, as of late, the independent recycling programs of the US, including Diegueno’s program, have become less productive. This is due to two issues that have begun to intensify, threatening the collapse of the recycling program.

       The first of these problems is the increasing cost to recycle materials. Recycling companies are now facing bankruptcy due to the mix of recyclable and non-recyclable materials being placed in recycling containers. A couple of years ago, Washington D.C. replaced its residents’ 32 gallon recycling bins with 48 gallon bins, a 50% increase in size. The residents of D.C., however, weren’t clear on which materials would be recycled at the Washington D.C. recycling plant, and began to place non-recyclable matter in their bins. The increase in these materials caused the city’s cost for processing recyclables to spike, as well as cutting profits from selling recyclables by over 50%. Many Americans, when unsure if something is recyclable or not, will recycle it anyway. This is commonly known to people as “Wishful Recycling,” and is the main reason why so much non-recyclable material ends up being processed. If people were more careful about recycling only recyclable materials and disposing of non-recyclable materials, this would be a much less prevalent problem. If I am unsure of whether or not I can recycle an object, I will dispose of it as trash. The more non-recyclable materials that go through the processing plant, the less productive it becomes.

       The other factor contributing to the downfall of recycling is the inability to continually process recyclable material. James Delvin, CEO of ReCommunity Recycling, commented on this problem in an interview with Scientific American. “‘It’s an economic issue if you think about [it]. We go through all this effort to process this material, and roughly 15 to 20 percent of what we process ends up going back to the landfill. It’s incredibly inefficient to do that.’” The inability to continue the circulation of recyclable materials would eventually mean the end of the recycling industry. It is the job of US citizens to make sure recyclable materials do not end up in landfills or are lost to the ocean. However, if we can not ensure that this will happen, we will eventually be left without recyclable materials to process.

Diegueno’s recycling program ties in well to the problems that other recycling companies across the nation face. First of all, we have incredibly contaminated recycling bins. I have often observed many non-recyclable materials in our recycling containers, not to mention that most of the recyclable material in the bins is dirty and cannot be processed. In addition to DNO’s recycling bins being below standard, many students do away with recyclable material by throwing it in the trash can. As I mentioned, the second-largest problem with recycling is the fact that recyclable materials are not being recycled. If us at Diegueno and other recycling programs across America can find a way to get the recycling program back on the right track (which would be nothing short of a miracle), good for us. On the other hand, if we can not find a way to work out the kinks in America’s recycling program, we would be much better off without its existence.

Source- Scientific American

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