April 22 marked the 44th anniversary of Earth Day, a day specifically devised to prompt people to ask, “What can I do to make a difference for the earth?” Solving global environmental issues like climate change may be so daunting for some people that they automatically assume there is nothing they can do to help. But in reality, there are things we can each do every day that can have a big impact on our community and the environment. The simplest of these is to recycle.
The benefits of recycling stretch farther than most people realize. For starters, it reduces the amount of waste that goes to landfills. Currently, more than 250 million tons of trash in the U.S. is sent to landfills every year. Landfills are one of the largest producers of methane in the world, a greenhouse gas (GHG) 34 times more potent than CO2 and a major contributor to climate change. In addition to methane, landfills release an array of uncontrolled emissions and create leachate, a liquid that can contaminate groundwater and make landfills an environmental burden for generations.
Recycling products made of materials, such as metals, plastics, glass and paper also reduces greenhouse gases and saves energy by avoiding new mining and reducing or eliminating the need for virgin materials in the production of new products.
At Covanta, we are firmly committed to increasing recycling here in Alexandria, where we operate Covanta Alexandria/Arlington Energy-from-Waste Facility. We demonstrate this commitment by recycling 8,000 tons of metal annually. This Earth Day, please consider the following universal information in order to maximize your recycling:
What cardboard is recyclable? All cardboard boxes, except waxed, are likely recyclable. If possible, remove adhesive labels and tape.
What about that pizza box? Recycle the non-greasy half of pizza boxes and discard the rest with the trash.
It rained … Can I recycle my wet newspaper? Unfortunately, paper fibers can only hold so much moisture, and if paper is too wet, it may not be able to be recycled. Try to keep papers indoors and set them out for recycling when it’s dry out.
What should I do with plastic bottle caps and wine corks? Corks can be reused in bottles, for crafts, or other creative endeavors. Remove plastic caps, and crush the bottles so they take up less space, before placing them in the bin.
What should I do with batteries and electronics? Alexandria residents can drop off their e-waste at 3224 Colvin Street, Alexandria on Mondays and Saturdays only from 7:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. In Arlington County, e-waste can be dropped off at the Water Pollution Control Plant at 530 31st St. S., Arlington, or residents can schedule a special pickup of these items on the day their normal trash is picked up.
Can I recycle empty containers that once held chemicals? Yes, as long as the container is completely empty. Motor oil is the exception. You cannot recycle motor oil containers as the residual oil can interfere with the recycling process.
Armed with a little extra knowledge, we can work together to improve our recycling habits, making an even bigger difference to our environment and the world we live in.