Sustainability Corner – Recycling Made Visual

By Pat Garrett
Member, Riderwood Sustainability Project

Like so many things, at first glance recycling seems simple. Put paper, plastic, metal and glass aside for a separate collection, so they can be processed and used again instead of going to the landfill.

It’s when you begin to peel back the layers and actually start recycling that the questions arise. That’s where Helene White and Katie Bonomo come in. You may have seen them outside each of the dining rooms during dinner in early September, fielding questions and pointing out on their display the actual packaging Riderwood uses for takeout and the stores, as well as common items from outside sources.

They had answers to many questions from lots of interested residents. Questions they couldn’t answer, they put on a list to be researched by the larger Riderwood Residents Recycling Committee, a group that works closely with General Services. They’ll be ready with answers the next time.

The recycling scene keeps shifting, too, adding to the need for continued education. In the beginning, we sorted different colors of glass. Anybody else remember that? Green, brown, clear?

Metal went into another bin, and only newspapers and magazines could be recycled for paper. I don’t remember plastic being recycled at all back then. Gradually we got to ‘zero sort’ or ‘single sort’ (both meaning everything together). But recently the vendors told us that they couldn’t sell wet or contaminated paper, so we have to separate paper again. They’ve asked us to emphasize ‘clean and dry’ for all the materials we collect.

It’s like riding a bicycle. Once you get the hang of it, you can adjust to the changes that come along. Recycling can work to provide a cleaner environment for all of us.

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