… that is the question that shouldn’t be!

In our house, I have become somewhat of a fanatic about recycling. I have been known to roll up my sleeves to pull a piece of plastic from the trash and clean it off in order to avoid sending it off to a landfill. As a result, the amount of trash we create as a household has gone down significantly.

When Saturday morning rolls around, I load our week’s-worth of recycling in the back of my car and head for Granby, where public recycling is available from 9 am – 1 pm every Saturday. Located in the parking lot west of Country Ace Hardware, the 12 recycling dumpsters are almost always full by the end of those four short hours.

The program is sponsored by the Grand Resource and Recycle Coalition, the Town of Granby, Waste Management and Country Ace Hardware. They accept almost all recyclables which can be dropped off “single stream”, so there’s no sorting necessary. A requested donation of $2 per visit helps offset the costs associated with recycling in our rural mountain community.

If you’ve been there during this four hour period, you’ve seen how busy it can be, and, you’ve probably also run into someone you know while you’re there. A quick trip to drop off recycling often turns out to be a bit of a social event.

The operation is staffed by a variety of local volunteers, and, you never know who will be there when you arrive. On my last trip, I was glad to see volunteer Matt Raynak, who I hadn’t seen since last summer. Matt told me he enjoys the social aspect of volunteering, because you do see a lot of people in a short period of time. Matt is just one of many volunteers staffing the operation who believe strongly in the difference recycling makes on the environment.

Later this year, another drop-off facility is anticipated to open in Fraser, along with the newly approved “pay as you throw” trash service. This will provide eastern Grand County residents with a more convenient recycling location.

With over 7 billion people on earth, we should all be concerned with the footprint we are leaving on the planet. As volunteer Matt Raynak observed “Recycling is one small way to make a big difference”.

The benefits of recycling include reducing the amount of waste sent to landfills, conservation of our natural resources like wood, water and minerals, it prevents pollution and saves energy by reducing the need to collect new, raw materials, and, it also helps create jobs in both the recycling and manufacturing industries

The history of recycling goes back a lot farther than I would have thought. Evidence of recycling dates back, at least, to 1031 A.D., where Japanese shops sold repulped paper. Over time, when resources were scarce, the practice of reusing and recycling existing materials served to lessen the need to create new.

Today, the recycling industry has transformed to a much larger scale process that starts with collection at points just like the one in Granby. Recyclables are then sent to a recovery facility to be sorted, cleaned and processed into materials that can be used in manufacturing. I was surprised to learn that recyclables are bought and sold just like other raw materials would be, and prices vary, depending on supply and demand.

More and more of today’s products are being manufactured with recycled content. Common household items that contain recycled materials include newspapers and paper towels, most aluminum, plastic, and glass containers, steel cans and plastic laundry detergent bottles. Recycled materials are also used as recovered glass in asphalt to pave roads, or, recovered plastic in carpet, decking and park benches.

We can all help close the recycling loop by buying new products made from recycled materials. There are thousands of products that contain recycled content. When you go shopping, look for products that contain recycled content or, at least, can be easily recycled.

Terms utilized to describe recycled products are:
Recycled-content product: The product was manufactured with recycled materials either collected from a recycling program or from waste recovered during the normal manufacturing process. The label will sometimes include how much of the content was from recycled materials.
Post-consumer content: Very similar to recycled content, but the material comes only from recyclables collected from consumers or businesses through a recycling program.
Recyclable product: Products that can be collected, processed and manufactured into new products after they have been used. These products do not necessarily contain recycled materials.

In a recent study, the Environmental Protection Agency released findings on the economic benefits of the recycling industry with an update to the national Recycling Economic Information (REI) Study in 2016. The study analyzed the numbers of jobs, wages and tax revenues attributed to recycling and found that, in a single year, recycling and reuse activities in the United States accounted for 757,000 jobs; $36.6 billion in wages; and, $6.7 billion in tax revenues. This equates to 1.57 jobs, $76,000 in wages, and $14,101 in tax revenues for every 1,000 tons of materials recycled.

If you are not currently recycling, I hope you will reconsider your decision as the number of options grow in our community. In the meantime, there are other small things you can still do to reduce unnecessary waste. Some examples include refilling your reusable water bottles and coffee mugs, instead of buying plastic water bottles and cups at the store; the next time you go out for dinner, bring your own “to go” container(s) and skip the styrofoam take-out box; say “No, thank you” to plastic straws and cutlery; and, make a point to remember your reusable bags when you go to the grocery store. Wherever you can apply the Reduce/Reuse/Recycle principles, it’s a step in the right direction. Every small effort does have an impact, and it starts with each of us.