By Teresa Kurtz
Today is America Recycles Day. Across the nation, thousands of local events will be held ranging from electronics collections and document-shredding events to plastic bag collections and recycled art shows.
Throughout November, an estimated 2 million people will join in the celebration. Amid all of the fun — and there is a lot of fun involved — it’s important to consider the serious side of why recycling really matters.
For municipal solid waste, today’s recycling rates stand at roughly 34 percent. At these rates, recycling is a multibillion-dollar industry that employs millions of Americans and helps advance our clean energy economy.
Much of this cannot happen without public participation in recycling systems. Through the simple act of recycling and buying recycled products, consumers can create the momentum that builds materials markets and fills the supply chain of recycled (raw) materials that can help fuel our economy.
But there is more opportunity. According to a report published by the non-profit organization As You Sow, it is estimated that the value of just-discarded packaging in the United States is worth more than $11 billion.
As a state, Iowa has a strong history and commitment to recycling and waste reduction — diverting 36 percent of waste generated toward recycling, conserving resources, creating more than 11,400 jobs and boasting an industrial output of more than $2.4 billion.
Why are we so rich in this environmental and economic endeavor? It is because of a collective and truly collaborative effort of Iowa’s residents, non-profits, businesses and industries, and local governments utilizing a combination of programs. Iowa residents actively participate in the various 600-plus curbside collection and drop-off programs statewide. These are partnered with take-back programs for batteries, electronics, tires, plastic bags, and bottles and cans offered by local solid waste agencies, businesses, retailers and distributors.
To put a perspective on the effect of recycling, the number of cans recycled every 30 seconds equals the number of people who could fill an entire pro football stadium. And recycling just one aluminum can saves the energy equivalent of powering a 46-inch LED television for three hours. A glass container can go from the recycling bin to a store shelf in as few as 30 days.
While there is disagreement on how to boost our economy, we can all agree on something that can create green jobs, reduce waste and litter and protect our natural resources: recycling.
Teresa Kurtz is executive director of the Iowa Recycling Association. Comments: email@example.com
America Recycles Day: www.americarecyclesday.org
Recycling in Iowa: www.iowarecycles.org