NOLL: Recycling: Let’s talk about it

Dr. Michael G. Noll

Walking through my neighborhood a few days ago, I ran into an elderly citizen I had never met before. 

There she was with her walker at the end of her driveway, ready to head back to her house. What really caught my attention, though, was the blue recycling container she was about to pull back to her porch with the help of a rope she had attached to it. 

Talk about dedication!

What a contrast to some of the neighbors we all have, who either do not know how to recycle or do not seem to bother to. Every week, their garbage containers are filled to capacity or overflowing, a destiny our landfills ultimately share with them.

I believe that our City Council is sincerely trying to find a solution to a problem many communities face. A global recycling (and waste) dilemma can no longer be ignored, and neither can the consequences of our patterns of consumption.

When Benjamin Franklin was alive, who famously said “want not, waste not,” there were hardly 1 billion people on our planet. Shortly after the Great Depression, the world’s population had grown to 2 billion. By the time I was born, we reached 3 billion. Today we are close to 8 billion.

It is not the population growth itself that is worrisome, it is our behavior. There are too many of us using too many resources too quickly, and we are utterly wasteful while doing so.

This wastefulness is particularly true for the U.S. Per capita, we not only lead the world in waste production (including food) but also in energy consumption, and both are costly fiscally and environmentally speaking.

If we are truly so concerned about saving money, why are we so wasteful?

Based on my observations, I can only conclude that this is not about money but about prioritizing convenience. However, at the end of the day, such a priority will cost us more than it would to, say, fund organizations like Keep Lowndes Valdosta Beautiful or expand communal recycling efforts.

Yes, recycling costs money, but so does maintaining landfills and the cleanup of leachates.

Bringing materials to landfills also costs money, even if the price per ton still seems rather low.

In this context, it is important to note that if being wasteful is so cheap, it will hardly do anything to minimize waste or to improve low participation rates in recycling programs. Moreover, should we decide to do away with our curbside recycling program, who will in fact use his or her car, gasoline and time to bring recyclables to a drop-off site?

As the City Council ponders the question of how to continue with and even expand our recycling efforts, they need to hear from us, from you, so they know how important this is to you.

Call them. Write to them. Let them know that you are supportive of curbside recycling.

I also encourage the City Council to 1) reach out to organizations like the “Georgia Recycling Coalition” and “The Recycling Partnership” which may be able to offer some advice and 2) organize a town hall meeting, so that we can have a communal discussion and sharing of ideas about recycling in Valdosta.

Dr. Michael G. Noll is a Valdosta resident and vice chairman of Keep Lowndes Valdosta Beautiful.


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