Thursday, June 26, 2008

Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle

I live in Wellesley, Massachusetts where we recycle nearly 90% of our solid waste. How is this possible? Here's my personal story.

As part of my effort to be more eco-friendly, I spend each Saturday morning sorting our solid waste into the following categories:

Plastic
Natural colored high density polyethylene (HDPE) resin bottles
Other bottles
Non-bottles

Glass
Clear
Brown
Green

Paper
Brown paper bags
Newspaper
Junk mail

Cardboard

Metal
Aluminum, refundable
Steel
Aluminum, non-refundable
Copper

Wood

Organics - tea bags, food scraps

Yard waste
Grass
Leaves
Branches

Specialty items
Batteries
Printer cartridges
Paint/chemicals

In Wellesley, there is no garbage service. Every household sorts their waste into these categories and drives to the recycling and disposal facility (the RDF). It's a social occasion. I'm likely to meet Fidelity Vice Presidents, McKinsey Partners, and Venture capitalists while dropping my recyclables into the appropriate bins. People meet, have romances, and get married at the RDF (true story!).

Each week, after dropping off all my recycling, I have just a few pounds of waste left over. That, we compost. We have two types of compost bins - a compost tumbler in the yard and a compost pail for the house to collect and transport kitchen scraps to the compost tumbler. Since our household is all vegan, we have no grease or meat waste at all, so we never have issues with attracting wildlife or rancid compost.

One really handy area of the RDF is the "Take or Leave it" area. Whenever we have items in the attic, garage or basement that still have a useful life but are no longer needed, we take them to the RDF where others can take them at no charge. It's a kind of town-wide Yankee swap system.

Just a few hours each week by the 5000 households in the town reduces our solid waste by 90% and generates $2 million in revenue for the town through the sale of recyclable materials.

Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle - it's a great way to be green in your neighborhood.
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