The Valuable Individual

How can we, as individuals, participate in waste management? Because some of us are so overwhelmed with Earth's problems, we feel that our contributions have no real consequence in the end. For others, social barriers can be an issue. A lady we once knew confessed that she did not want to be seen buying used items or being concerned with power use. She was worried people would see her as cheap ? a scrooge ? when the family was so affluent. Yet, she was very careful to be seen with recycling bins out on the curb on pick-up day, because that was thought to be the thing to do socially. Now is a good time to put an end to these negative thoughts and feelings of false pride. Waste reduction is not about ego - it is about the health of the planet and of our nation.

Communities would be wise to look at Nova Scotia's waste reduction success and try to emulate it in their area. With the highest waste reduction rates in Canada, Nova Scotia has reduced landfill contributions by 46% - saving about $31 million per year - simply by making the most of the organic and recyclable materials. Curbside recycling service (Blue Box) is available to 99% of its residents and 76% now enjoy curbside organic service (a.k.a. Green Box).

With better management of organic and recyclable waste, we will find we do not have to put the trash out as often because the odors and volume are greatly decreased. As a fiscal incentive, many garbage collection companies offer discounts to homes with reduced waste.

We can also help the waste management industry run more efficiently. For instance, when only full garbage bags and Blue or Green boxes are put out on the curb, the garbage truck does not have to stop as often and burn fossil fuels inefficiently while idling. (Incidentally, vehicle idling is responsible for 3% of the air pollution problem.) Similarly, by collapsing boxes before recycling we are ensuring that space is used more efficiently, thereby reducing the number of bins needed for transporting materials.

Recycling, alone, has a huge impact on the environment. A study of a 100-unit apartment building practicing maximum recycling found it would save 21.93 thirty-foot trees, 26.86 cubic yards of landfill space, 8,389 kilowatts of electricity, and 77.4 pounds of air pollution in just one year! So you see, these seemingly small choices and efforts towards waste management really do make a difference.

-- Written by Dave and Lillian Brummet based on the concept of their new book Trash Talk. The book offers useful solutions for the individual to reduce waste and better manage resources. A guide for anyone concerned about his or her impact on the environment.

In The News:

The Science of Nerdiness  Scientific American
This Week in Science  Science Magazine
Yes, Science Is Political  Scientific American
Sweden's gamble  Science

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