Archive for Thursday, September 6, 2007

Brown boosting recycling efforts

September 6, 2007

If Tony Brown has his way, Baldwin City will be changing its ways in regards to trash. Brown is advocating more recycling, including his own cloth bag program.

Currently, the city's solid waste contractor, Ottawa Sanitation, has a recycling bin at the Midland Depot. Brown, a city councilman, wants to get the word out about trash and what can be done here.

"The Environmental Protection Agency estimated that the average American produced 4.7 pounds of trash per day in 2005," said Brown. "That adds up to 1,700 pounds of trash per person -- a grand total of 240 million tons of trash for the entire country.

"About 32 percent of Americans did some form of recycling in 2005, so these efforts reduced the impact of the huge amount of trash we produced," he said. "Metals and paper are recycled at relatively high rates. Plastic is recycled at the lowest rate, which is unfortunate as plastic does not decompose in landfills."

Those numbers are one thing. Brown points to the numbers regarding plastic bags, such as those used in grocery stores, as being worse.

"As for plastic bags, the statistics are even more astounding," said Brown. "Estimates are that each American uses 350 to 400 bags per year. In 2006, a total of 88.5 billion plastic bags were used in the United States.

"Of these bags, about 1 to 3 percent were recycled," he said. "An unknown percentage may have been reused, but a vast majority of these bags went into landfills, where they will remain for 1,000 years before they finally decompose. Yikes."

With that in mind, the Baker psychology professor is doing something about it. He has ordered 100 cloth bags that have information about Baldwin City for people to get and take to stores to use. He's going to start giving them away Wednesday and hopes it will catch on.

"This part of the reason I want to launch the cloth bag program here in town," said Brown. "We can't fix this problem on a national level, but we can do something about it here in Baldwin City. As I see it, every little bit of effort to trash helps.

"I like Roger Boyd's take on recycling," he said of the long-time Baker biology professor. "He says 'you are either a part of the solution or a part of the problem.' I think it's time for more people to start being part of the solution."

Not only is Brown doing his part with the cloth bags, he's also taking it upon himself to get the word out on the recycling offered at the Midland Depot.

"The city's current contract with Ottawa Sanitation includes recycling at the depot," he said. "The items that are recyclable are newspaper, aluminum and tin cans, glass bottles and jars -- clear green and amber only -- and No. 1 and No. 2 plastic containers."

Baker University also has a recycling program and the Santa Fe Trail Historical Society has aluminum can recycling bins at the post office and the depot. Boyd, who is semi-retired, explained the program on campus.

"This was a program that I initiated in 1989 with the help of students in Earth We are, the environmental student group," said Boyd. "I have had two work study students doing the pick up for most this time. They have about 50 pickup sites around campus, mostly in offices as well as the three dorms and in the dumpster area near the apartments.

"The Kansas Department of Health and Environment does a survey each year of how much people recycled," he said. "What I reported for 2006 was 22.1 tons of paper and 900 pounds of aluminum. I have estimated 3-6 tons of cardboard, 1 ton of glass, 700 pounds of plastic and 400 pounds of tin and steel."

Baker utilizes a different company for the bulk of its recycling.

"We have three bins from Deffenbaugh behind Pulliam Hall that we put all our paper in," said Boyd. "Deffenbaugh then picks it up monthly. The cardboard we currently bale at a local business and are working on a location for our own baler on campus, eventually. All of the aluminum, plastics, glass and metals are taken to several locations in Lawrence."

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