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A Reticent Recycler Gets On Board With Dallas’ New Recycling Program

Our green guru has always been a reticent recycler, but Dallas new recycling program may change all that.

The Reticent Recycler
Our green guru admits that, like the rest of this city, she’s never been a recycler. Dallas new recycling program may change all that.

Embarrassing but true: I have never gotten the hang of recycling. The environmentally correct method of trash disposal has always seemed inconvenient, messy, and confusing. What does one do with plastic-coated paper? Do glass bottles and aluminum cans require separate containers? And where am I supposed to segregate all this trash in my already overcrowded kitchen?

Disposing of Hazardous Materials

Disposal of some household materials requires special procedures. Certain products, notably electronics, pose a serious risk to the environment as they contain chemicals such as mercury and lead. Many cleaning products are formulated with equally damaging substances.

Don’t Recycle:
Paint or paint thinners
Many household cleaners
Pesticides or fungicides
Fluorescent light bulbs
Photographic chemicals
Unwanted or outdated medications
Electronic products
Toner cartridges
Cell phones
Smoke detectors
Pool chemicals
Items containing mercury (e.g. thermometers)
Gasoline or unwanted fuels

Rather than be recycled, these items should be taken to facilities that are accustomed to working with hazardous waste materials.

One of the largest centers, Home Chemical Collection Center, can also provide information on special collection events.

 Apparently I am not the only Dallas resident with poor refuse handling skills. In fact, my habit of tossing virtually everything into the garbage puts me alongside the vast majority of our city’s population. Although Texas recycling rate has been ranked in the top 14 on the national scoreboard (2000), the City of Dallas rate has been estimated as low as 2 percent (2004). Clearly we have a long way to go if we want to meet the EPA’s national goal of 35 percent.

Adding to the problem, our state’s per capita rate of disposal far surpasses the U.S. average of 4.4 pounds per person per day. Conservatively, we Texans dispose of an average of 7.18 pounds per person per day. That’s a lot of garbage.

Dallas Turnaround
Fortunately, all of this bad news has caught the attention of concerned Dallas officials, and a substantially revamped recycling program was launched in October.

The new plan involves single stream technology allowing plastics, paper, aluminum, tin, and all colored glass to be placed in the same container for pickup. Eliminating most of the sorting process has increased recycling rates in other cities across the country. The City of Dallas has provided many residences with new 90-gallon roll carts for use in the program. When space limitations or lack of alley access inhibits the use of the carts, blue plastic bags may be used instead (see specific program details in your neighborhood by visiting the sites in the box at bottom).

So my new mantra is Reuse or Recycle. Easy to say, and now, I have half a chance of making good on it. My great hope is that the rest of the city finds the new recycling process as doable as it appears to be.

Why Recycle?
From any standpoint, the benefits of recycling far outweigh the slight nuisance of trash sorting. Everything we throw away eventually is replaced by something new – much of which is imported from other countries. Squandering natural resources is environmentally damaging, wasteful, and costly.

Eco-sources report that a national recycling rate of 30 percent would save more than five billon gallons of gasoline, reducing foreign oil dependence by more than 100 million barrels annually. Recycling about one-third of our trash would have the same impact on global warming as eliminating the exhaust from 36 million cars. Recycling Sunday newspapers would save 500,000 trees – weekly. 

And if that’s not reason enough, consider the rapid rate at which we are topping off available landfills as well as the time required for materials to decompose: 50 to 80 years for plastic containers, 100 years for tin cans, and 500 years for glass bottles. And, let’s face it, Styrofoam simply never goes away.

The City of Dallas Recycling Resources

For general program details:
For blue bag store locations:
For information on pickup schedules by neighborhood:
For University Park regulations:
For Highland Park regulations:
Or call 3-1-1, the city’s non-emergency number (but be prepared for a long wait).

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