In a fun video-gone-almost- viral recently released by Clean Wisconsin, Sam Weis suggests that we’ve come a long way since the recycling law was originally signed in 1990, and we don’t want to go back.
While it is true that we had a huge problem on our hands in the pre-recycling time of the 1980s, I’m here to argue that taking away the recycling law would leave us much worse off than we were when the law was signed in 1990.
Every decade, Americans’ habit of high-consumption has grown. And, along with these habits, many waste-heavy industries have grown as well: plastics, paper, and convenience products like single-serving items and fast food. These changes have ultimately resulted in the creation of exponentially more waste as the years tick by.
Thankfully, along with the growth of these industries have come positive changes to the ways we deal with the mess we leave behind: improved waste collection, safer landfill technology, knowledge about the dangers of incineration and garbage burial, and widescale, affordable recycling programs.
The consumption habits of our whole society in recent decades have been shaped, in part, because we are able to recycle much of our waste.
As the amount of waste every person creates has grown since 1990, so too has the population. According to the US Census, the population of the United States when the recycling bill was originally signed was 247 Million. That’s a lot of people making garbage.
But today, that number has grown to 307 million. What’s more, in 2008, the average waste generated by an American PER DAY was 4.5 pounds. Guess what? That’s one billion, three hundred eighty-one million, five hundred thousand pounds of garbage created EVERY DAY, which leads to a lot of scary facts about the growing amount of garbage we produce.
I don’t need to tell you that there are many reasons to appreciate recycling. Among the obvious of keeping a low number of landfills in our state and reduced emissions from creating new products, it also promotes an ethical tradition of sustainability from a young age.
But now, there is added importance. With increasingly more waste, each New Year brings added consequence to the threat of turning back to our old habits of incineration, landfill propagation, and waste burying of the past. The only way to ensure we don’t turn back is to have required, affordable, wide-spread, well-supported recycling programs. (And my third-grade cousin could tell you that.)
It is for this reason that I am going to do everything I can to make sure Wisconsin cities maintain their mandated recycling programs, including contacting Gov. Walker and all of my legislators, doing my part to keep the public informed, and staying tuned to Clean Wisconsin’s Actions for the Greener Good in the coming weeks as important actions and information are released.
Contributed by Jenny Lynes, Membership Assistant