Dede Allender: Reuse items instead of throwing them away

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Editor’s note: This is second in a series of informational articles about recycling in Hancock County. Last week featured a how-to guide and resources for drop-off or curbside recycling. Today, Dede Allender, director of Hancock County Solid Waste Management District, shares about items that can be reused.

“Does recycling really matter?”

“Am I making a difference? I’m just one person.”

Yes, and yes, to both questions! If you send all of your recycling to the landfill, it would stay in the landfill forever. No one goes through the landfill and pulls out recycling. It takes up valuable farmland just to store people’s trash. Once the landfill is full, additional land must be acquired. I have seen first-hand how quickly a landfill can fill up and how landfills have to continuously expand in order to have room for all the trash.

On the other hand, if you recycle, those items are turned into new items that can be used again and again. You are saving valuable resources by recycling. If a recycler doesn’t have recyclable items to use, they must use natural resources that must be mined from the ground or harvest trees to create the items we need. This is much more costly than using recyclable items.

Also, it is interesting to note that recycling one aluminum can could save enough energy to keep a 100-watt light bulb burning for almost four hours. Recycling a stack of newspapers just three feet high saves one tree. Recycling five plastic bottles provides enough fiber to fill one ski jacket.

So, yes, you are making a difference each and every time you recycle!

Feel like you want to recycle, but can’t due to cost or inaccessibility to recycling bins? Don’t worry, you can still do your part. If you make a point to reuse as much as you can, you are still helping. Try reusable water bottles instead of disposable ones. Bring in a reusable shopping bag instead of getting a plastic one from the store. Switch to reusable containers for storing food instead of bags. Try to reuse plastic containers: ice cream pails work great for collecting garden vegetables or for storing toys. Plastic food containers work great for storing leftovers or nails in the garage. Also, you can try to buy items that have less packaging waste. Be mindful of what you are able to reuse and you will make a difference!

Another form of reuse is donating items you no longer want. I continually see couches and other furniture sitting along the road waiting to be picked up by the waste hauler. The ReStore in Greenfield accepts many items for reuse – furniture, fixtures, hardware and other household items. The next time you have one of these items, see if they would be interested in them. This will save you money by not having to pay the landfill fees and someone else may be able to use the item and save space in the landfill.

There are also other non-profit organizations that might be able to use your items as well – Goodwill, the Hancock Hope House, and Love, Inc. also accept some larger items for donation as well as clothing, household supplies, etc. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.