Earth Friendly: What you need to know about curbside recycling in Victoria
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So, you go to the grocery store for milk, bread, eggs ... maybe some cookies to go with the milk - oh, and wouldn't some chips and salsa be really great? You take your groceries home, put them away, and eventually eat them all. When they are gone, you are left with a bunch of packaging. Almost everything comes in a package, and almost all of those packages are recyclable.
The city of Victoria is starting a curbside recycling program to make recycling more convenient for city residents. If you live in Victoria and pay a water/garbage utility bill, you recently received, or will receive, in the next week a 96-gallon green and yellow recycling cart. Your recycling cart will be emptied every other week starting in February. To find out when your first scheduled pick up is, visit victoriatx.org/environmental/recycling.asp.
Recyclables picked up from your home will be taken to a materials recovery facility in Houston. The curbside recycling program is single stream, which means all of your recyclables can go in the cart together. The recovery facility sorts recyclables using conveyor belts and high tech machinery. The machinery incorporates magnets that pull steel or tin cans from the mix, disks that fling paper products into the air, cameras that read the three dimensional shape of plastics and other high tech methods.
Here is a list of items you can recycle, how to prepare them and a description of how they are manufactured into new products:
Plastics No. 1-No. 7: Most plastics are stamped with the recycling symbol with a number in the center of the three arrows. Look for this symbol somewhere on your plastics, usually on the bottom. If the number is a 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, or 7, it can be recycled. If the number is a 6, it can be recycled, except styrofoam. Rinsing your plastics is recommended to help with odor. Plastics are sent to be washed, cut into 1/4-inch pieces, removed of impurities and shipped to plastic manufacturing plants to be made into new items, such as carpeting, fiberfill, detergent bottles, plastic lumber, recycling bins and toys.
Metal: All types of metal can be recycled. Examples are steel or tin cans, aluminum cans and empty aerosol cans. Again, rinsing is recommended. Steel or tin cans are soaked in a chemical bath, washed, crushed into dense bales, then sent to a steel plant to be made into rebar, new cans, solder and a variety of other recycled products. Aluminum cans are cleaned, melted, reinforced with new aluminum, poured into molds, rolled back into new can stock and shipped to canning companies for filling.
Paper: Newspapers, office paper, colored paper, cardboard, pizza boxes, gift wrapping, phone books, and cereal boxes are just a few examples of the paper products that can be recycled. You can leave in the staples and plastics windows and there is no need to bundle your newspaper. Paper is sent to paper mills where it is sorted, de-inked and mixed with water to form a pulp. A screen shakes the pulp into a flat, wet mass, which is then heated and passed through drying rollers. These rollers squeeze out the water and press the dry pulp into new paper and cardboard.
Recycling has been around for decades, and has become more important as more natural resources are used to package foods and other products. Industry has come up with new ideas to minimize packaging, such as making aluminum cans and water bottles thinner, combining products into one package, such as detergent and bleach, and selling concentrated forms of products, such as powdered drink mixes that can be mixed in water.
Recycling is important, but it isn't the first step to take. Remember to first reduce by purchasing products that have minimal or no packaging, then reuse by getting a refillable water bottle, grocery bag, etc., and lastly to buy products packaged in recyclable materials if possible.
Marie Lester, is the environmental programs coordinator for the city of Victoria's Environmental Services Department. You may contact her with topic ideas, inspiration, questions and comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.