As we recently posted, we are in the midst of the worst recycling environment which we have seen in the last 20 years and all indications are that the market for recycling materials will not improve in the foreseeable future. You may have read about the restrictions placed by China on importing recyclable materials from the United States. China has closed its doors to many types of recycling materials and is requiring that the material be 99.5% free from contamination. According to the staff at the Mercer County Improvement Authority (MCIA), the contamination rate for recycling collected from Mercer County communities is 11.4%. This means that we have significant work to do to make our recycling acceptable for the market.
China was also the largest consumer of US recyclable volume and no longer is purchasing the volumes that it did in the past. This means that there is a glut of supply in the market which is significantly driving down the value of this materials. As a result, in many cities across the nation, recyclables are ending up in landfills.
What this Means for Us
We must do a better job of recycling or face:
- Higher taxes because of skyrocketing recycling costs.
- More landfills to bury contaminated recycling.
- Risks for wildlife, waterways, oceans and the quality of life on our planet.
- Imperiled futures for our children and grandchildren.
There is no magic want to wave away our trash! We are now facing the consequences of thoughtless consumption and waste, We MUST rethink our disposable lifestyles. In some of our upcoming posts, we will discuss ways in which each one of us can make a difference in combating this relentless crisis.
Ewing’s Green Team and Environmental Commission have joined together to publish a new addition to our Sustainability Series of publications, the attached recycling flyer, Trash Talk: Recycling in Crisis, for easy reference to answer your recycling questions.
To summarize: One piece of garbage makes it all garbage! We advocate that when it doubt, throw it out! We ask that all residents keep the following do’s and don’ts in mind when recycling:
Recycling Do’s and Don’ts
- DO remember the first of the 3Rs of recycling: Reduce. Make every effort to reduce the amount of waste that you produce. Single-use plastics are a significant component of that waste stream because they “don’t go away and essentially, last forever. Make every effort to eliminate single-use items such as plastic grocery bags, straws, utensils and cups, bottled water, take-out containers… Use reusable versions of those products instead.
- DO recycle all empty bottles, cans, paper and cardboard.
- DO recycle clean materials: i.e. keep foods and liquids out of recycling.
- DO keep plastic bags out of recycling.
- DO check out this site for more information about how you can do your share to Reduce | Reuse | Recycle.
- DON’T bag your recyclables. Plastic bags and film get tangled in the machinery. (Our local supermarkets have plastic bag collection bins at their entrances.)
- DON’T include soiled food items. They can turn an entire load of recycling into trash.
- DON’T add sharp or dangerous materials like needles and electronics. They can cause injury to workers.
- DON’T include bulky items like propane tanks or construction debris (no wood). The Township Convenience Center at 136 Scotch Road will take a lot of materials that you cannot leave at the curb. Please check our website or call 609- 882-3382 for accepted materials.
- DON’T add items that are not on the list of accepted materials. This will contaminate the entire load.
The annual autumn cleanup is almost upon us and the Ewing Environmental Commission suggests that you channel your inner Environmental Steward by leaf cycling. Hoarding your autumn leaf drop provides numerous benefits for your landscape. It provides raw materials for the compost pile and an insulating winter cover in the garden. It helps with soil building and moisture retention. And, not inconsequentially, it helps save taxpayer dollars by reducing the amount of resources our Township puts out for fall cleanup. While you might think that this leaves the yard looking a little less than perfect, less labor may be required as we strive to become Leaf Litter Bugs.
The somewhat messy yard contributes yet another important benefit – habitat for the wild creatures that share our landscapes. Did you know that despite its not so perfect look, leaf litter provides an important foraging space for a wide variety of birds, small mammals and insects? The untrimmed winter garden invites insects to reside in native grasses or settle in hollow plant stems; while birds feed from dried seed heads.
So how do you balance a desire to have a not-so-messy yard (and not irritate the neighbors) with the needs of the interconnected web of creatures that provide biodiversity in your garden? Well, you don’t have to let your whole garden go wild; you can start out small. Just leave a section or two untrimmed or start in the backyard. Or settle some leaves under the branches of your shrubs.
I use a combination of methods. I rake out some of the leaves from the beds that are simply too overwhelming onto the lawn. I then take my mulching mower and chop them up into small pieces. (Yes, using gas mowers is considered an unsustainable gardening practice, but consider the greater good.) Rake up the chopped leaves and place them back in the garden around shrubs and plants. Not surprisingly, they are greatly reduced in volume and contribute to a more manicured look. Do this as needed until the end of the season and the leaves will break down over the winter providing your soil with valuable nutrients all the while enhancing habitat.
Set yourself a goal of gardening more sustainably while trying to reach a balance between aesthetics and respecting the natural processes occurring in the landscape. After all, Mother Nature doesn’t have anyone carting out leaves to the curb. Our world desperately needs more environmental stewards, eco-gardeners working in harmony with nature and conserving natural resources. We ask you to become a litter bug; a Leaf Litter Bug, that is.