The Future is Bright. So Get Involved.
Last March, I got a phone call from my mom informing me that my hometown had cancelled their recycling program. For many of us, sorting our trash and putting them in the old blue bins with the curved arrows was second nature growing up. Needless to say, I was more than displeased with this closed-door decision and wanted to fly home to figure out what happened.
Thinking of myself as an aspiring entrepreneur / trash guru / environmentalist (in no particular order) I searched for ways to privatize the recycling, keep the revenue local, and do the right thing. Despite all my work at the beginning of summer, I couldn’t make it happen and I still didn’t have the answers.
So, today, I sat down with the public works manager who not only started the program fifteen years ago, he was the one who ended it. Because of commodities prices falling drastically and some inefficient collection practices, the decision to “end” the recycling is now saving the town $1 million a year. However, this is because the trash is being taken from town, separated on a much larger scale with recyclables sorted out, and the trash being incinerated to produce energy. While its not being recylced on a consumer or residential scale, it is on a commercial scale. And if you go by the definition of returning one product to make another, waste to energy is recycling. Either way, its better than dropping it in the landfill.
With the increased savings, the town is looking at other energy-efficiency programs. Meeting with some town officials yesterday, I proposed retrofitting the existing walkway lights with LED or induction style lighting. With 70-90% reductions in energy, the town would shave $450,000 off their energy bill, recoup the initial investment in the first year, and could use those savings for further improvements like more hybrid fleet vehicles or further lighting retrofits.
Sometimes I wonder how big a difference it would be if everyone changed out old light bulbs for newer CFL or LED bulbs. Yes, its cliché, but who cares. Its easy, it saves money, and its a step in the right direction.
For lighting and efficiency tips, check out the TGLC Green Guides