Monday, August 3, 2009

Tun on the Green Light

Almost all consumer products these days are protected in disposable containers, usually made of plastic, paper, cardboard, wood, metal, glass, or a combination of them. Most products themselves are made of an increasingly complex mix of the same materials. While we wished that our Texas Legislature would pass laws encouraging recycling of those packaging materials, the reality is that Texas is a laissez faire state, and the probability of having a serious plan agreed by our envoys to Austin, any time soon, is slim. So, what is there for us to do, until the green light shines on our State Capitol?

The city of Houston is doing its part. In the last few years it has opened several recycling and receiving centers accepting almost all kind of domestic containers and used electronics. But those centers are not accessible to all Houstonians. Months ago, some HEB stores started receiving recyclable materials in containers located in their parking lots, but at least some of them have stopped receiving. The program seemed successful to the point that people were flooding with discarded packaging material of products purchased at HEB and at other businesses.

The city of Houston has established a recycling program but it only reaches the areas served by the city trash collection. Most neighborhoods not served by the city have established recycling programs of their own. Most of these programs severe restrictions in terms of type of materials received.

These are some suggestions we can adopt immediately, without waiting for our politicians in Austin or Houston to react:

1. Avoid buying products that are packaged with materials that are not recycled in your neighborhood, or accepted back by your store. Beverages are an example. Soft drinks come in glass, plastic or aluminum containers. Try to favor the type of container that is easier for you to recycle.

2. Some products, such as detergents are sold packaged with very thin film containers (“plastic bags”) that use substantially less plastic than conventional containers. Try to buy those products.

3. Try to use reusable bags when shopping groceries, or return the plastic bags to the store for recycling. Some stores accept the used bags.

4. When replacing batteries used in electronic gadgets, take the used ones to the store. Most stores receive your used batteries.

You will find many more areas where your immediate action can payoff. Here are some suggestions:

1. If you work for a company with many employees, ask the corresponding department in the organization (usually HS&E) to establish a recycling program if not already in place. If there are vending machines in your workplace, suggest adding recycling containers for used bottles or cans placed close to the vending machines.

2. If the local newspaper distributes unwanted weekly advertisement supplements on your sidewalk, ask them to stop the distribution to your home.

3. When your neighborhood community asks for your vote on recycling, within your possibilities, vote for more recycling, not less.

4. Contact your councilperson and ask him/her what your options for recycling are. May be the city can install a recycling container in your neighborhood.

5. Inquire the manager of the store where you buy your groceries if they have plans to receive back the containers of the products they sale. Favor the stores that receive back the containers.

Some of our politicians, organizations and even the government may be oblivious to the reality we face: more landfills, global warming, and loss of wildlife. Our politicians and government need to do their job, but in the meantime we can produce significant changes, even in Texas, why not?

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