Why is it so hard to recycle?

Over the years I watched others taking action to save the environment.  I did not regularly recycle.  I did not pay attention to how much electricity I was using or how many miles I could have saved by better planning of errands and shopping. I did not take my own shopping bags to the grocery store or pay attention to where my fruits and vegetables were grown. At our house we used lots of paper towels, paper napkins, Styrofoam cups and plates, etc. We drank a lot of canned drinks, and didn’t think anything of driving to Muenster (12 miles round trip) multiple times a day to pick up something or shop.

Lately, I became aware that my energy bills, food costs, and gasoline prices were rising at a fast pace. My income is no longer able to absorb those increases easily. I finally connected rising costs and my concern over our environment with my own behavior.  I decided to do what I could to help the environment and my own budget.

I became more careful about turning off lights not being used, buying fewer things wrapped in plastic or Styrofoam, and taking my own bags when shopping.   I also decided to recycle paper, plastic, glass, and metal cans.  Today I found out that the Gainesville’s Waste Transfer station will take only paper and cardboard, but more needs to be recycled. I learned that it is not certain when, or if, Gainesville would be recycling a full range of recyclable items in the future.  

Discouraged, I went to the website of my waste management company, Waste Connections, and found lots of information on their recycling services and the importance of recycling for protecting the environment.  I called and asked to add that service to our regular pickup.  They told me they did not offer recycling services to any of their customers. I was told there was nothing they could do, even though recycling was listed on their website as one of their services. Next, I called WM waste management, the company that services residents of Gainesville, and was told they do not pick up recyclables for their customers either.

By reading about the economics of recycling these days I found out why there is no place in Cooke County to drop off most of my home’s waste. It costs money to recycle- more money than can be recovered by selling the materials. That means municipalities and waste removal companies are saving money by getting out of the business of recycling.

So, what can I do now?  I can take control of what I buy. I have stopped buying eggs in Styrofoam cartons and milk in plastic jugs.  I am training my pets to accept dry pet food and am giving up the canned varieties.  I carry my own bags when shopping, etc.  The bottom line is that we can protect the environment by changing our own behavior.  We cannot depend solely on local, state, or national governments to save the environment.  Each of us must also do our part to protect the air, water, and land we all depend on. If we can’t recycle, we can reuse and/or reduce the waste we create.

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I am professor, emeritus, of nursing at Texas Woman's University, Denton, Texas

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