Public Decency

December 16, 2008
By Bruce Garlinghouse, Sandy, UT

We live in a country in which every American consumes a 100 foot Douglas fir worth of paper every year. We throw away enough aluminum to rebuild our entire commercial fleet of airplanes. 80% of what we throw away is recyclable, however we only recycle 28%. For you non-mathematicians, that is less than 50%. Hidden behind numbers and fun facts is this message: RECYCLE.

Salt Lake City is known for its beautiful natural environment. Lush pine trees cover the state, with majestic mountains to the east and west. It is up to us to sustain its beauty. Residents of Salt Lake City recycle up to 850 tons a month from about 6800 homes. However, our efforts need to stretch beyond the realm of the home. In the various parks and public areas in Salt Lake City, trash cans can be found littered throughout. However, one never sees an option for recycling. So the option to recycle is very limited to the home. We need to provide opportunities to recycle during all times of the day. Imagine walking in a park, water bottle in hand. After you take that final gulp, you look for a trash can because now the bottle has become waste. You find the trash can and mindlessly toss the bottle. Now imagine if there was a recycling container placed next to the trashcan. Now as you walk up to the containers you have the choice, and you so wisely choose to recycle. Its quite simple, provide opportunities to allow Americans to make a smart, earth-friendly decision. Along with, parks, recycling programs could be offered to restaurants, malls, and several other public places. We should encourage businesses to recycle giving incentives such as tax breaks for being environmentally conscious. Americans need to be given the opportunities to recycle all the time and soon benefits will follow. Many argue that it is just not in the budget to provide all communities with recycling programs, as well as public recycling in parks. When assessing costs we have to keep in mind the costs of providing houses and public areas with containers as well as providing specialized vehicles to accommodate them. However, throwing trash away costs money as well. On average, the U.S. spends $10 billion a year on trash disposal which involves maintaining landfills, hiring people to pick up trash, and hiring people to fill and cover landfills. While both cost money, the trade-off is without a doubt beneficial. In the long run, recycling saves money because it extends the lifetime of a landfill, which saves people money.

Obvious taxes will ensue certain projects, however where do we draw the line? When do we decide that the future of our planet is worth more than taxes? When do we decide on the valuable of our planet? And finally when do we realize it is time to ask more of ourselves to leave a planet suitable for our children? I leave these questions with you, and I hope the answers will soon follow.

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