We can’t recycle.
This may sound like a public declaration of impotence, but honestly, it feels a little like that.
This is a definite struggle for someone who, in part, decided to move into a tiny house because it’s more Eco-friendly. The difficulty is that our property lies in a the ‘unincorporated’ portion of our county, outside any city limits.
So even though there are plenty of other houses and properties nearby, and plenty of different companies are willing to compete to collect our garbage, not one of the companies I have called runs a route in our zip code for recycling.
In my adult life, recycling has always just felt like a given. Wherever I have lived it has been done without any fuss. Grant it, when I moved to Texas the institutions where I have worked have been the least conscious of sustainability in my career, they still ‘recycled’ as did the cities in which I resided.
“Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle” is a phrase permanently ingrained in my psyche as a 90s adolescent. So in my struggle to recycle at our new home, I have discovered just little reducing, reusing, and recycling is happening not only in Texas but in the US in general.
According to the EPA, in 2011 on average 35% of American households and 10% of US businesses were recycling. Those levels have not really changed since I starting hearing the ‘three R’s’ back in the 90s. And yet, if we could reach the recycling rates of some European countries, it would be the equivalent to benefiting the environment by removing 50 million cars from the road each year.
I think the problem with such low US recycling rates relies in the convenience factor. You tell most people that it takes 500 years for an aluminum can to decompose, or 4000 years for glass to decompose, or that the amount of once-used wood based products that end up in American landfills each year is enough to heat 50,000,000 homes for 20 years, and they would probably tell you that they think recycling is good! But if there isn’t a recycling bin handy, most of those people will just end up throwing that glass bottle in the trash.
In fact, I appealed to nearby neighbors to see what they do with their recyclable products. Many expressed a desire to recycle but very few were able to give me any alternatives as I search for a company that will come to our area to pick up recycling.
The best advice I received was from a family who said they always take their recycling to the green bin behind the YMCA that I belong to in the nearest ‘city.’ Of course when I took my own recycling there I found there is only a small opening for broken down boxes and the sides are welded shut. This just isn’t going to work for us.
After calling several Waste companies I have come to find out that recycling in rural Texas is “just not profitable.” Essentially I was told that there is enough open land to put trash in landfills that don’t bother people and companies just aren’t willing to spend the extra money to recycle.
So maybe I’ll chalk it up to the availability of land that makes it so much harder to recycle in Texas than back East. But I am not satisfied with that and I am making it my personal mission to secure affordable recycling services for all who are interested in my rural community. This maybe be a long and red tape filled journey but wish me luck and I will keep you updated. But in the mean time- check out this great article from Forbes about Recycling in America.