By Allie Skalnik
Earth Day 2020 is going to look worlds different from past years. No gathering together as communities. No parks crawling with people and classrooms brimming with craft supplies. There will be no tree planting and no climate strikes. There’s a reason why we celebrate Earth Day, and as climate concerns grow, it’s more important than ever to take a moment and revisit the ways we can take care of the planet while making sure to stay socially distanced.
One of the best places to start is by recycling. Indiana’s recycling rate has been holding steady at an abysmal 17% since 2016, and it’s time that changed. For comparison’s sake, the national average is around 34%, which is not exactly staggering on its own, and with 75% of our waste able to be recycled, there’s a long way to go.
So what can we do? I was able to ask Suzi Denton from Ray’s Recycling some of my questions (indicated in bold), that may help to clear up the confusion.
How much of what I recycle actually gets recycled?
Denton: We recycle ALL items that are placed in the recycling bin, provided that they are NOT contaminated and they are acceptable items.
NOTE: Acceptable items will vary by region. This takes a surprising amount of digging to figure out, but here are some helpful resources to start with:
- Find out what you can recycle & where: https://recyclesearch.com/profile/inrecycling, https://raystrash.com/what-can-i-recycle/, https://raystrash.com/faqs/
- Unexpected things that can actually be recycled: https://www.in.gov/idem/recycle/2490.htm
GENERAL RECYCLING GUIDELINES [specifics may vary]
ACCEPTABLE in Ray’s Residential Curbside Recycling Program:
- Glass Bottles and Jars
- Recycle all food and beverage containers that are clear and colored glass. Please rinse. There is no need to remove labels.
- Recycle newspapers and everything that is delivered with them, including inserts, coupons, etc.
- Clean, dry, broken down, bundled neatly, and must fit in receptacle
- Recycle food and beverage aluminum and steel cans
- Milk cartons, juice boxes, soup, broth, and wine cartons
- Plastic Containers
- Recycle all plastic containers marked with a 1 through 7
- These include most plastic food and beverage containers, plastic medicine bottles, plastic cleaning product bottles (must be empty), etc.
How careful do we have to be about breaking down boxes, cleaning food off plastic, etc?
Denton: We appreciate broken down boxes (you can get a lot more in recycling, also). Contaminated items, especially food, are disposed of. Our initial sort line is hand sorted. Folks don’t want to process garbage.
What kind of things can we do to make the jobs of sorters easier?
Denton: Make sure that you only place acceptable items in bins. (I’ve attached acceptable items flyer). Also NO Styrofoam. Items should be loose, not bagged. Styrofoam is the biggest NO-NO. You can see the list of unacceptable items on the flyer. Rinsed items are processed easiest. If there is more than 10% contamination, our loads are rejected.
Does Ray’s Recycling have any plans for Earth Day 2020?
Denton: Currently, due to the COVID-19, all our Earth Day Functions have been cancelled.
Thank you to Suzi Denton from Ray’s Recycling for answering my questions!
Recycling is only the beginning. In fact, before recycling an item, consider repurposing it (that’s the “reuse” part of “reduce, reuse, recycle”). Even better, reduce the amount of waste we create by consuming less products with unnecessary packaging, for example. To prevent food scraps from going to the landfill (or in some cases, incinerated), consider starting a compost bin. It has the added benefit of producing rich soil for your gardens. Here’s a helpful resource to get started: https://www.epa.gov/recycle/composting-home
Our Earth Day plans may be scrapped, but a growing community of passionate youth are finding ways to take Earth Day online. So if you find yourself free on Earth Day, check out these wonderful opportunities!
Digital Climate Strike: https://youthclimateaccord.wixsite.com/youthclimateaccord/digital-climate-strike-2020
As always, stay healthy, and stay safe!
Image courtesy of holyoke.org