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America Recycles Day: Keeping Iowa Beautiful

PHOTO: A lot of progress has been made in waste reduction since the first America Recycles Day in 1997, but much work remains, with only about one-third of trash in the U.S. recycled. Photo credit: M. Glasgow.
PHOTO: A lot of progress has been made in waste reduction since the first America Recycles Day in 1997, but much work remains, with only about one-third of trash in the U.S. recycled. Photo credit: M. Glasgow.
November 15, 2013

DES MOINES, Iowa – This is America Recycles Day and, while there is much still to do to keep more trash out of landfills, there has been a major shift in thinking over the past couple of decades.

Environmental advocate Andrew Dobbs says when this event started in 1997, recycling was something a small number of people went out of their way to do.

Now, it's a part of everyday life for most Americans.

"Now that we have those curbside solutions for the most common products – glass, plastic aluminum, paper, cardboard, etc. – it's time for us to find convenient solutions for all of our products," he says.

The United States produces more than 250 million tons of trash a year, but only about one-third is currently recycled.

Part of the reason recycling rates aren't higher is because there are products, especially those with hazardous components, that are difficult to properly recycle.

As it is now, Hobbs says most end up in landfills, where they can leach toxins and contaminate soil and water – so the businesses that make these items must also take the lead.

"The solution that we found for electronics and a lot of other products is for companies that produce these things to be responsible for taking them back, and recycling,” he explains. “And we're going to send a message to the entire industry – 'Hey, let's all work together to find real solutions.'"

Among the hard-to-recycle products where Dobbs says a difference can be made are batteries, but he says for it to make economic sense, all industry leaders must be on board – and as of now, there's a holdout.

"Three of the four largest battery companies are ready to offer a take-back for those products,” Dobbs says. “But Rayovac has refused to take part in these efforts and as a result, they're standing in the way of real progress when it comes to battery recycling."

It's estimated that Americans throw away more than 3 billion batteries each year.

John Michaelson, Public News Service - IA