Retiring Recycling

What comes after the blue bins?

Every Monday morning in East Falls the streets are lined with blue recycling bins, many filled to the brim with plastic, glass, aluminum and paper – evidence of the residents’ eating, drinking and reading habits. And each week we pat ourselves on the back and congratulate ourselves and our neighbors in participating in what we all assume is a simple, easy way to help the environment.

However, as China refuses to take many types of paper and plastic for recycling and our bottles, cans and papers end up in incinerators or landfills, it is becoming increasingly clear that recycling will no longer be a viable option for helping protect the environment. Fortunately, recently proposed legislation in Pennsylvania could help us begin to engage in new habits that are more efficient and environmentally friendly than recycling.

The legislation includes 13 bills labeled “Zero Waste Pa”  that seek to eliminate (or curb) our use of single waste plastic like water bottles, Styrofoam, straws and plastic bags. According to the legislation is spearheaded by Rep. Tim Briggs of Montgomery County.

“We can no longer ignore the growing waste problem that is threatening our environment. My colleagues and I have introduced a package of bills that, together, address this problem from a number of angles,” Briggs said in a press release. “By encouraging the use of more naturally biodegradable materials, addressing issues with the way we recycle, and finding ways to support environmentally friendly practices, we can help preserve our planet for future generations.”

This is a good start and it starts with changing the behavior of consumers, corporations and local, state and federal agencies. While recycling is slowly dying, it proved that our behaviors can change over time. But with landfills becoming full and increasing amounts of plastic trash polluting the oceans and beaches, and a devastating United Nations report that claims that without “radical action” one million species could become extinct, it is clear that we no longer have the luxury of time that existed when recycling first gathered footing in the environmental movements of the 60’s and 70’s.

Certainly, as consumers, we have already begun to change our behaviors for the better. Go to the Shoprite on Ridge Avenue and any environmentalist will be happy to see the amount of shoppers bringing their own bags into the store. At Weaver’s Way Coop they have a large bulk foods and goods section were shoppers can also bring their own containers. But while the consumer’s behavior change is a positive sign, the corporate world needs to change its behavior as well. One way to do that is to not only bring our own bags and containers but to withhold our dollars from the world’s worst producers of single use plastic. (See below)

Top 10 Producers of Single-Use Plastics

(Based on global audit by Greenpeace. The audit enlisted 10,000 volunteers across 42 countries and six continents.)

  1. Coca-Cola
  2. PepsiCo
  3. Nestlé
  4. Danone
  5. Mondelez International
  6. Procter & Gamble
  7. Unilever
  8. Perfetti van Melle
  9. Mars Incorporated
  10. Colgate-Palmoliv

There are reasons to be optimistic that the world is slowly becoming a more environmentally conscious planet. The question now is whether there is still enough time for our behavior changes to save it.

Trash Tips

For tips on reducing recyclable waste, visit

About Nate House 19 Articles
Nate House moved to Calumet Street in East Falls after living on the Delaware Bayshore for two years. Before that he lived in Philadelphia neighborhoods from the Northeast to South Philly. He teaches English and Communications at Community College of Philadelphia. Links to stories about ghosts (he has yet to see a ghost in East Falls), birds, dogs and magical fish can be found at natehouse.

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