According to George Carlin, a house is just a pile of stuff with a cover on it. The thing about stuff is that we don’t realize how much of it we accumulate. Or how much of it we throw away.
Paper, for example. Most Americans are awash in paperwork, and will find paper in every room in the house, in every office, in every garage, in every retail store and salon and even at sporting events. About the only place you can’t find paper is in the ladies room at gas stations along evacuation routes during an active hurricane season.
How much paper do we use? Several sources claim that Americans use 85 million tons of paper a year—that’s about 680 pounds generated by each person every year.
Why recycle paper? According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, recycling paper causes 35 percent less water pollution and 74 percent less air pollution than making paper from scratch. So recycling your paper protects air and water quality and reduces waste.
For such a handy little invention, the retail plastic bag has recently become a topic of much debate, the bag’s litter potential one of the main points of discussion. Take a city of 200,000 for example. If each resident brought home four plastic bags a week for 52 weeks, each person will have brought home 208 bags in a year. Collectively, city residents will have brought home 41.1 million bags. And that’s assuming that each resident brought home only four bags a week, including holidays and back-to-school shopping.
Most folks have their favorite re-use, like the practical trash can liner or pet by-product handler, but the unused bags provide tons of raw material that can be recycled to make new plastic containers, decking and more plastic bags. Many local retailers now recycle your bags so that they don’t go to waste.
Fire may have taken us out of the dark ages, but cell phones make sure we’re enlightened 24/7. A few years ago, cell phones were good for making and receiving calls. Now, we can talk, text, email, shop and find the closest sushi bar. On average, cell phones are replaced about every 18 months. A two-year-old phone is yesterday’s technology. Americans retire nearly 130 million cell phones annually. At last count, only about 10 percent of cell phones were recycled, but recent polls indicate that the number is increasing.
In addition to take-back programs at wireless provider and retail locations, many agencies and organizations collect cell phones for a 911 Cell Phone Bank where data is cleared, phones are refurbished and sent to law enforcement agencies and victim assistance programs where they are distributed to those who may need emergency communication—victims of stalking, domestic violence, elder abuse or neglect.
Phones that can’t be refurbished can be recycled. The EPA calculates that recycling a million cell phones would yield 75 pounds of gold, 772 pounds of silver and 35,274 pounds of copper. Mining for gold, silver and copper in cell phones protects air and water quality. Donating a cell phone to a 911 cell phone bank could save a life.
The next time you consider tossing some of your stuff, remember that much of that stuff is still usable. Less trash means more stash for the future.
Florida is a state flanked by a gulf and an ocean, dotted with hundreds of lakes and springs and crossed by thousands of miles of rivers and streams, and sprinkled with lots of puddles during the rainy season. Water is everywhere. Still, we are unsure how much water we have to drink or how long our supply will last. A waste not, want not approach helps conserve our water sources.
One easy way to keep our water stocked is to reclaim it. Water that we usually waste—domestic wastewater—can be filtered, disinfected and used again.
Some places in Florida have been using reclaimed water for years and the purple pipe–in the United States, reclaimed water is distributed in purple pipes—has distributed many a gallon to Florida landscapes and lawns.
The St. Petersburg Master Urban Reuse System set a “waste not, want not” example with one of the first large urban reuse systems. St. Pete has had numerous visitors from other countries, including most recently South Korea, looking for similar water management solutions. The St. Pete system, in operation since 1977, supplies highly treated reclaimed water for irrigation to more than 10,200 residential lawns, 64 schools, 101 parks, and six golf courses.
Disney sets another example of the “waste not, want not” philosophy. Reedy Creek Improvement District provides the Walt Disney World Resort Complex with reclaimed water which is used to irrigate four golf courses, landscaped areas at eight hotels, highway medians, an athletic complex and a water park. Reclaimed water is also used to irrigate a 110-acre tree farm which produces horticultural materials used throughout the complex. Disney also puts reclaimed water to work as cooling tower make-up water, for washing vehicles, cleaning streets and sidewalks in the Disney parks.
Purple fire hydrants provide access to reclaimed water for fire suppression and protection. Reclaimed water can also be used to recharge groundwater. In 2008, Florida used 667 million gallons per day of reclaimed water, saving more than 125 billion gallons of drinkable water while adding more than 79 billion gallons back to available water supplies.
Though Florida leads the nation in water reuse, the potential for reclaiming water goes untapped in many areas. To find out if reclaimed water is available in your neighborhood, look for purple pipes or purple fire hydrants. Contact your local wastewater management or reuse utility company. Contact information can usually be found on your utility bill. If reclaimed water is available, follow the guidelines provided by your local reuse utility.
If reclaimed water is not available in your neighborhood, contact your local elected officials, city planners, or water management district to learn about plans for water reuse.
Information provided by
Shanin Speas Frost
Water Reuse/Wastewater Wetlands Coordinator
Florida Department of Environmental Protection
For those who were unable to attend the event, many retail grocery stores have implemented plastic bag recycling programs to make recycling easy for their shoppers. To find a plastic bag recycling location, go to http://www.abagslife.com. Visit http://www.Earth911.com for information on recycling paper and many other items such as computer monitors, toner cartridges and televisions.
On Saturday, August 14, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection will host an Easy As One collection at the Governor’s Square Mall in Tallahassee. If you plan to be out taking advantage of the Back to School Sales Tax Holiday, also plan to stop by the Easy As One tent to recycle plastic retail bags, shred paper for recycling and donate used cell phones (working and non-working) to the Big Bend Victim Assistance Coalition.
Participants who bring in 15 or more bags for recycling will receive a reusable shopping bag. Those who bring a cell phone or paper for recycling will receive a day pass (valid through December 31, 2010) to a Florida State Park. Mention that you read our blog and win a prize. While supplies last.
Easy As One Collection
Date: Saturday, August 14
Time: 10 am – 2 pm
Location: Governor’s Square Mall parking lot between JCPenney and Macy’s
Vote for the Department of Environmental Protection’s Project:Teach Florida students green habits that produce amazing results.
DEP’s Easy As One project was chosen to be in the running for $25,000 in grant money during August’s voting cycle of Pepsi’s Refresh Everything Project.
Florida’s Foundation and DEP teamed up to submit their project: Teach Florida students green habits that produce amazing results. At six collection events, students and the community will collect plastic bags to be recycled, offer shredding and recycling services and collect cell phones for disposal or donation. Each of the six participating schools will receive $1,500 toward making their school green and have an opportunity to earn an additional $7,000! Students statewide can enter a You Tube contest for cash awards.
You can vote every day during August, here’s how:
- Visit www.refresheverything.com/easyasoneflorida
- Text 101291 to Pepsi (73774) *Standard text messaging rates apply.
A spring in summer provides an excellent way to cool down. Cold water carries heat away from the body 25 times faster than air of the same temperature. A dive into one of Florida’s springs brings immediate relief. So pack a waste-free picnic, turn off the lights, unplug the computer, invite some friends to ride with you to conserve gas and reduce emissions, and head to your favorite spring to take it easy. Several state parks feature springs that provide a chilling experience.
Find more Florida Springs.
Learn more about the “Take it Easy” Twitter contest.
Clean out your file cabinets and desk drawers, round up those old cell phones and stray chargers, clear those plastic bags from under your counter. Check your medicine cabinets, purses, glove boxes, and bedside tables for meds that have expired or are no longer needed. Then bring it all to DEP’s Easy As One Collection at Weeki Wachee Springs State Park on Friday, July 30, from 9 am until 4 pm.
Bring plastic bags to recycle, paper to shred and recycle, and used cell phones (working and non-working) along with stray chargers to donate to a local charity. Participants who bring in 15 or more bags for recycling will receive a reusable shopping bag. Those who bring meds for safe disposal, a cell phone or paper for recycling will receive a day pass (valid August 1 through October 31 2010) to a Florida State Park. While supplies last.
After visiting the Easy As One collection point, take in a mermaid show, take a river boat cruise, take a canoe or kayak for an outing on the Weeki Wachee River, take a swim in a first magnitude spring, take your lunch and picnic in the shade of covered picnic pavilions. Taking it easy is a walk in the park.