In America, the average Joe produces around 4 pounds of trash every day. That’s about a ton and a half every year. Think about it: Newspaper, junk mail, coffee take-out, food packaging – it all has to go somewhere. Much of what we’re tossing in the trash can actually be recycled. Duh!
Our national rate of recycling is around 35%. That’s right on target with the goal of the Environmental Protection Agency. We started to get serious in Virginia back in 1989, when the General Assembly said, “Thou whilst recycle 25% if all thine waste in the Commonwealth.” And for a while there, we were kicking butt. Within a few years, we were pushing 20%. By 2000 we had almost gotten to 35. 2010 was a banner year, with Virginians breaching the 40% mark. In 2011 it was a remarkable 43.5%.
And then last year we took a nap.
In 2012, our rate of recycling in the beautiful Commonwealth of Virginia dropped back down to 41.5%. Really. Really?
It seems that more people than ever are taking a long, hard look at how we treat our environment. We’re starting to pay attention to things like climate, pollution, and how we treat our Great Big Blue Marble. But what have we gained? When we launched Keep Virginia Beautiful back in 1953, the James River in our State Capital was a polluted mess, and not a body of water that one would care to launch a boat in, much less a cleanliness & beautification initiative. But launch we did!
In 2013, the James, much like many of our other rivers and streams, is much cleaner and friendlier. Folks like Earth Korps are pitching in, and as a result, we can feel a bit better about swimming, boating, and fishing in these waters. The James, in fact, has seen the return of Atlantic Sturgeon, an endangered fish that for several decades thought better of swimming west from the Chesapeake. The James River Association recently released their State of the James report, and the news was good. The river ticked up a few points in health, and is now a solid “C.” Really. Really?
This is why November 15 is such an important day. And not just for Virginians, but for everyone. It’s America Recycles Day. You can recycle. Look at it like New Year’s Day and this will be your resolution. “Oh! But it’s so hard!” Sure it is. You can only recycle paper, plastic, glass, metal, batteries, cardboard, yard waste, tires, wood, aluminum, tin, automobiles (the Virginia DMV has an Abandoned Vehicle Program), oil, anti-freeze, batteries…oh, we said batteries, but you get the idea.
Just about anything can be recycled. Some items may need to go to a special place or require some notice (like the car), but on November 15 we need all of you to get in the game.
REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE! REDUCE! REUSE! RECYCLE!
The folks here at Keep Virginia Beautiful are teaming up with the Retail Merchants Association in Richmond for a free event. We’re looking for your dead gadgets and electronics, and ours is a drive-thru. Pull up, pop the trunk, and we’ll take it from there. We also encourage all of you to visit Keep America Beautiful’s America Recycles Day site to take the pledge. That’s an order. You can also visit our events page here to find an event in your neck of Virginia.
41.5%. A “C” for the James. Get busy folks. We’ve got work to do.