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Student Scholarship Winner: Laura Hack

October 20, 2020

The essays shared here include the data cited and opinions expressed by the student applicants in response to a request to “Provide a one-page essay about the role some aspect of solid waste management (e.g., education, recycling, food waste recovery, composting, landfilling, etc.) plays in addressing an environmental issue currently in the news.  What are the responsibilities of individuals who generate the waste (including producers/manufacturers and consumers) versus the professionals tasked with managing the waste?” 

The Responsibility to Recycle Right

By Laura Hack

Everyone is responsible to recycle right. Currently, a problem in many communities is the contamination in recycling containers left for curbside pickup. Everyone participates in some aspect of the generation and/or management of solid waste. It is the responsibility of the management to use their equipment efficiently and effectively, and to let the consumers know what that process requires of them. It is the responsibility of all of us to ensure the recommended materials go in the correct containers and to avoid wishful recycling.

Wishful recycling is when consumers toss materials into recycling containers and assume they will be properly recycled "by the powers that be". This can apply to both items that are labelled as recyclable in a location and to items that people wish were recyclable. If these items are sent to recycling facilities that are not able to process them as intended, then despite the best intentions of the consumer, right recycling is not achieved.

When considering wishful recycling, it helps to understand what is entailed through the use of some specific examples. One example is plastic utensils, which are theoretically recyclable, but are often too small to process and can literally fall through the cracks at processing facilities.

Another example is plastic containers that have a recycling symbol on them but are not of the size and shape processed by the local MRF (Material Recove1y Facility). This symbol does not necessarily mean the plastic can be processed at a recycling facility, but is more to indicate what type of plastic it is and people put in the can in the hopes that it will be recycled. So, whether through good intentions that fall short or through misunderstanding directions, many recycling efforts do not realize their full potential.

This is where communication efforts to educate the public come into play. It is everyone's responsibility to recycle correctly, and to avoid wishful recycling, but this cannot happen without the spread of information telling the public what the right way to recycle is. The use of visually appealing, engaging infographics can help make communications accessible to wide audiences.

When the management spreads info1mation which the public receives and uses to implement change, waste can be better managed. Together, both the management and the consumers can advocate for change that will facilitate the efficiency of the process, through policy changes if necessary.

Management is in a position to give a reason or incentive to recycle, like saving the environment, and to effectively communicate the ways in which the public can go green. It is up to all of us then to put the resources we are given to use and recycle right.


About the Author:

Laura HackLaura Hack

Laura Hack, North Carolina Chapter, attending Western Carolina University, was selected for the Category I Scholarship. Ms. Hack is considering majors in English and Graphic Design and submitted an essay about opportunities to facilitate communication in the solid waste industry, specifically in the area of proper recycling.


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