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Earth Sense: Recycling paper, cans saves green, too

POSTED: January 26, 2014 12:56 a.m.

If you had a festive Christmas dinner a few weeks ago, you probably didn’t toss the leftovers. They made for another nice meal later. It doesn’t make sense to spend money when lots of resources are already on hand. Recycling serves the same purpose.

Many of us love the look and feel of the printed newspaper. But the family dog has grown way past her puppy stage, and we never wrap fish. So what to do with old newspapers?

Putting them in the trash isn’t a responsible solution. According to the online Hall County annual report, SPLOST V and SPLOST VI allocated a total of $9.1 million for landfill projects. That’s money we pay every time we make a local purchase.

A 2008 study by Michigan State University found that newspapers were the largest single item in landfills, both by weight and volume. Annenberg Learner, a resource site for teachers (www.learner.org) indicates that paper and cardboard account for 41 percent of municipal solid waste.

Clearly, the benefits of paper recycling aren’t limited to protecting more Hall County land from being converted to landfill. They also include savings in the cost of such operations, and a reduced need for the SPLOST money we pay. Less volume of trash to haul also means that waste disposal fees — another monthly expense — don’t need to rise out of control.

In Hall County, recycling is easy and convenient. On Chestnut Street, just past Exit 22 of Interstate 985 and across the street from the Communiversity Campus, is the Hall County Recycling Center. Drive up, toss paper and cardboard into one of the many containers that I’ve never seen overfilled, and all that volume goes to a recycling company who will produce new paper products from it. It also feels good to know that this eliminates the need to cut down trees for fresh paper, with the accompanying problems of soil depletion and erosion.

Aluminum is an even more critical item. That beer or soda can tossed into the woods won’t rot away over the years, like the old steel cans did. Aluminum builds up slight oxidation and then never rots.

When Lake Lanier was low, its exposed bed at Clarks Bridge Landing showed thousands of old drink cans, faded but intact. People who care about North Georgia’s natural environment will always recycle aluminum, and never throw it into the trash or the landscape.

Rudi Kiefer, Ph.D., is a professor of physical science and director of sustainability at Brenau University. His column appears Sundays and at gainesvilletimes.com.


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