I’m sure many of you have seen all the commercials about what a great company Waste Management is and how they have this great love for the environment around us. It wouldn’t surprise me if a few people would disagree with that. If my memory is working properly I think in the past Waste Management has been in the hot seat for being less than kind to the land we live on. So the question is does the company really do all the things the commercials say they do? In one case I can firmly say yes they are in fact putting to use methane produced by their landfills. The company is doing this in Taylorville, IL. But are the recycles you put in that blue bin weekly actually being recycled?
Now some might wonder why anyone would even question if their blue bin contents are in fact being sorted and then processed into new products by other companies. However there has been more than one person in our area ask the question about how their recycles are being processed. It’s actually fairly easy to see why these people would question what is going on. What many Waste Management customers in our area have seen is garbage trucks taking the contents of their recycle bin away. In the past most of the waste haulers in our area have used trucks that have sort areas. Meaning that the recycle bin contents are sorted into various compartments of the truck picking up the recyclables. From a little bit of reading it seems Waste Management has shifted to a concept called single-stream recycling. Supposedly this allows for waste hauler customers to not have to sort their recycled material. Waste Management claims this increases the amount of material being put into recycle bins.
In some communities I guess this wouldn’t even be a concern. From what I have seen on television other cities have recycle bins that look more like regular garbage cans. These are just different colors but also have the easy to roll out to the curb wheels. Granted the smaller blue bins that are used in our area can be fitted with wheels. I’d personally prefer a large container. Many weeks we need two blue bins to meet our recycling needs. Unfortunately not many of our neighbors follow us in this regard. You would think that using a waste hauler that allowed you not to have to sort would be a bonus. Then again do to cost many in our neighborhood are using local haulers that don’t support recycling to the extent they should. When you limit what can be recycled for whatever reason you do nothing more than encouraging people to not care about changing their habits.
In some communities you are punished for producing waste and not recycling. As much as this may offend some people in the United States or make them feel as if their basic rights are being violated. I’m leaning more towards this type of strategy. Why? Because it forces people to do the right thing. Not to mention the fact that a country that uses it’s resources wisely is a more independent nation. This is something most people who live in the United States have forgotten. It sickens me to realize that we run very few facilities in this country that make products from recycled materials. Instead we ship a good amount of this reusable product to China or other countries to be turned back into saleable products.
As more and more landfill space runs out we will be forced to change our ways of thinking. It’s very apparent that when this takes place it makes people have to remember the concept of innovation. This is a concept that I feel has long been forgotten by many in the US. You can make new products that are worthwhile using materials that were previously something else. There are many examples of this being done today. What needs to take place is doing our best to make these products viable to the consumer from a cost perspective. While also showing these customers that these goods aren’t inferior or lacking in quality.
It is encouraging to me that at least a few people care enough to be concerned about where the contents of their recycle bin end up. These are the type of people you know are putting stuff into the recycle bin for the right reasons. They want the contents to be kept out of the waste stream and have them be used again. There are many reasons that we need to start seeing more companies take the cradle to cradle approach. I think it has been shown many times that when this is done right it reduces cost while still allowing for a quality product to be manufactured. Doing the right thing can in fact make good business sense. This is also good public relations material as well.
Hopefully Waste Management is collecting and reselling recycle bin contents like they claim. Lets hope what we put into our blue bins isn’t ending up in a landfill. It is fully understandable why people in our community would have concerns about where this material is going. Especially when you are used to seeing a different type of truck collecting recyclables. I can only relate my personal experience here. In Chatham, IL Waste Management runs two trucks that look similar. One truck collects the garbage bins while the other collects the recycled material in the blue bins. In the past what most us would consider a traditional recycle truck picked up these contents. I did witness my regular trash man throwing a brown bag containing recycled materials into the trash truck one day. The brown bag was located right next to the blue recycle bin. Do to that being full and wind I had placed the brown bag next to the recylce bin. Even though it was clear that this was recycled material the driver placed the contents in along with our regular garbage. It’s episodes like these that have citizens worried about what truly happens with the recycles they place curbside. Although I’d rather not see anyone out of a job it’s my opinion that episodes such as the one above should lead to termination. You would then encourage other employees to not be so blatantly careless with materials that can make the trash hauler money and be put to use once again.