Column: Oklahoma may fall behind with recycling efforts, but individuals don’t have to

By Morgan Knox, Assistant News Editor

Reduce, reuse, recycle. This is a phrase that children are taught in grade school about how they can reduce their waste footprint and negative impact on the earth by changing their lifestyles.

Around the world there is a push for environmental stewardship, as well as a call for responsibility for what humans have been doing to the planet.

The state of Oklahoma is behind on the environmental trend.

According to a WalletHub’s analysts in “2016’s Greenest States” article, Oklahoma is ranked 45th in the country for environmental quality and the eco-friendliness of its policies.

Oklahoma is also ranked 48th for lowest water quality, and is tied for 47th for one of the lowest percent of recycled municipal solid waste.

Recycling is an important step to reduce the amount of waste produced. Items like aluminum, glass, paper, cardboard and plastics can be recycled into other products.

This repurposing of recycled materials preserves raw material, saves space in landfills and it earns communities revenue from companies that purchase the recycled material.

Simple changes could help Oklahoma increase our national recycling percentages.

Other states certainly strive to leave a smaller green footprint.

For example, the state of Vermont was ranked first by WalletHub’s analyst, with Washington and Massachusetts following.

In 2015 Vermont enacted Act 148 the Universal Recycling law that created mandatory curbside pickup of recycling and composting by the year 2020.

According to Vermont Public Interest Research Group, “The state’s goals of reducing the amount of waste sent to landfills and maximizing our recycling and composting is a huge step towards a more sustainable future.”

Revenue from recycling that goes unclaimed in Vermont goes back to environmental programs that reduce the costs of programs for individual taxpayers.

In Oklahoma there is no legislation that states that recycling is mandatory for its citizens. Having the choice to recycle in Oklahoma results in large amounts of recyclable items being hauled off weekly to landfills—and that is a lot of trash.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the average American produces “about 4.4 pounds (2 kg) of garbage a day, or a total of 29 pounds (13 kg) per week and 1,600 pounds (726 kg) a year.”

So in addition to simply separating recyclables from garbage, another thing Oklahomans could do to reduce their waste is compost their food scraps.

Composing food scraps could reduce 1.3 pounds from the 4.4 pound average trash total.

The site Earth911 said, “in fact, Americans throw away an average of 1.3 pounds of food scraps daily – translating to almost 13 percent of the nation’s municipal solid waste (MSW) stream.”

Everything that is thrown away eventually goes to a landfill to rot. Some products, like glass, can take over a thousand years to decompose in a landfill.

Oklahoma is certainly trying to be more eco-aware, and those efforts can be seen locally—even if improvements could still be made.

For example, the city of Shawnee offers curbside pickup for items like aluminum, cardboard, paper and plastic but the recycle bins that are provided are just a third of the size of the trashcan that is provided for curbside pickup.

Shawnee also does not accept glass through curbside pickup. So while there are ways to help our planet, they may not be as convenient as just throwing trash away and forgetting what impact all that garbage has.

Even more locally, OBU students can help take care of the environment during the fall Serve Shawnee and the spring One Body United service projects to clean up the city.

Students can also utilize the many recycling bins across campus and practicing more earth-friendly practices in both  the dorm and the classroom.

Oklahomans and Bison need to understand that living environmentally friendly involves lifestyle changes. Those lifestyle changes can include: reducing the amount of waste that individuals produce daily, investing in products that use recycled goods, repurposing things that you own instead of throwing it away, donating things, composting and recycling everything possible.

The Earth is home for the human race, and humans should be responsible for taking care of the world that provides for them.

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