Do you remember the locally produced video/ commercial with people having fish flying at them for using single-use straws and cups? If you haven’t seen the video, it might sound strange, but it was viewed over 20,000 times alone from The Allen County Department of Environmental Management’s (ACDEM) Facebook page. The emphasis was that the “fish aren’t happy” about the pollution that plastic straws create in landfills and rivers. The PSA was intended to encourage the reduction of single use plastics in Allen County, and it worked. Since then many local restaurants have stepped up to the challenge and sought alternatives for straws or simply don’t bring them with your drink unless you ask for one.
Last week, the ACDEM mailed every household in Allen County a 42-page booklet titled the “Waste Watcher Guide” for 2019-2020. Much more than the generic “don’t litter, do recycle” message, the guide is more comprehensive compared to versions that were released in the past. The periodical focuses on practical tips and resources for residents and businesses to reference and reduce waste by reusing, recycling and food/ yard waste composting. It also comes complete with maps and charts of drop-off locations and pickup services.
The University of Southern Indiana states on their website that “about one-third of an average dump is made up of packaging material… And every year, each American throws out about 1,200 pounds of organic garbage that can be composted.”
While most are accustomed to the idea of recycling, for many of us the recyclability of packaging doesn’t impact what we purchase. However, the reality is that each piece of trash you set out at the curb has to go somewhere, whether the landfill or even worse, into our environment. “Throughout the years, the Waste Watcher Guide has addressed changes in our community’s resources, kept people up-to-date on the do’s and don’ts of recycling, and provided educational information on effective ways we can all play a role in protecting our natural resources,” was stated in a press release issued by the ACDEM.
According to the EPA, the average person creates 4.48 pounds of trash each day, which amounts to 262.4 million tons nationwide. Compared to 1990 there has been a staggering 24.34% increase of trash.
A growing trend is the “zero-waste lifestyle,” where residents reuse and compost everything (or almost everything) they purchase, which is also the theme of this year’s ACDEM’s guide. While zero-waste is a noble personal goal and challenge, it is very hard to do, especially for those on a budget. However, it is important to remember that each dollar is a vote, and it’s estimated that as residents become more conscious of the consequences of their waste and go out of their way to seek package-less and reusable items, producers will take notice and accommodate. Overall, the concept is to take notice and realize that we are all responsible for the trash we produce, and we can all do something, even if it’s small choices to reduce our waste.
If you missed the Waste Watcher Guide in the mail, there is an online version located at www.acwastewatcher.org. You can also follow the Allen County Department of Environmental Management on most social media platforms for more helpful tips to help reduce, reuse, recycle and compost.