Commentary: Recycling Extravaganza comes to Earth Day
This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, April 20, 2012 - The staff of this weekend’s Earth Day celebration in Forest Park aims to make recycling as hassle free as possible.
“We’re really out to make it easy to recycle those things that people can’t find a place to recycle,” said Cassandra Hage, Earth Day's executive director. “There are many people who keep things around the house for a long time because they can’t find a place (to recycle) them.”
Some items, such as bicycles and musical instruments, have such a high value that owners don’t often throw them away. But at the same time, they have a hard time finding a place where they can be recycled or reused, added Jeanette Reynolds, Earth Day's program manager. Sometimes, she continued, common household items are not recycled because recycling bins aren’t available in all communities.
That's why Earth Day is featuring a Recycling Extravaganza this weekend. Various organizations will collect hard-to-recyle items from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on April 22 on the campus parking lot of St. Louis Community College Forest Park, off Oakland Ave. Afterward, visitors can leave their cars there and take the free shuttle service to the main festivities in Forest Park.
Among the nonprofits collecting materials are:
- The St. Louis Bicycle Works will collect used bicycles to be refurbished and put to use in their classes on bicycle use and safety for at-risk children.
- Making Music Matters will collect musical instruments to support after-school music programs.
- St. Louis Teachers Recycle will collect children’s books, teachers posters and games, costume jewelry, and children’s scissors for writing and math programs.
“We want to promote reuse and keep things out of landfills,” said Susan Blandford, St. Louis Teachers Recycle's executive director. “Some of the things people give us, they don’t think they have any worth and it’s the same with the kids. When they come to us, they might not think much about themselves, but we can change that.”
For-profit businesses are also scheduled to collect items at the extravaganza. They include:
- USAgain will collect textiles.
- Belleville-basedEye on Design will collect blinds, drapery rods and drapery panels. The Metro East business deconstructs and remanufactures unusable items.
Reynolds said one of the challenges in recycling electronics is dismantling items with so many different components and then finding a market for them. The St. Charles-based Executive Personal Computers, which will collect packing foam and foam containers at the extravaganza, specializes in recycling and refurbishing electronics. EPC President Dan Fuller said electronics should be kept out of landfills because they contain mercury, which can contaminate ground water, and plastic, which takes a century to break down.
“Most of these organizations recycle throughout the year,” Reynolds said. “The extravaganza gives those who attend an opportunity to make a connection to organizations that recycle items considered tough to recycle. It also provides a centralized location for recycling. One can pack up the car and get rid of all of these things in one place.”
Ameren Missouriwill collect CFL light bulbs on Sunday, but the Earth Day celebration is just one facet of the company’s involvement in recycling. Those who wish to recycle refrigerators can do so through a program offered by Ameren Missouri and Ameren Illinois. Since 2010, 10,000 freezers and refrigerators have been kept out of landfills, said Cara Dolly of Ameren's program for residential efficiency.
“This is so significant because of the space we’re talking about,” Dolly said. “It’s equal to 13 full size buses.”
Dolly said the program also saves energy because older refrigerators are usually less energy efficient. Ameren also pays customers $35 for recycling, said Dolly. Once they receive the refrigerators and freezers, the oil, mercury, and glass contained in them is recycled and used for other purposes, she said.
Recycling reduces greenhouse gas pollution that contributes to global warming, according to a 2005 study conducted by St. Louis-Jefferson Solid Waste Management and the University of Missouri at St. Louis. (The St. Louis-Jefferson Solid Waste District is a regional agency that fosters waste reduction and recycling throughout the region.)
The study said the St. Louis-Jefferson district has enough recycling to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 536,912 metric tons a year -- an amount comparable to the emissions from 405,000 cars.