I was elbow-deep in tomato sauce when I realized that some people really don’t know how to recycle. At my feet I found banana peels and exploded bottles of vinaigrette dressing and fiberglass insulation. The mess before me opened my eyes as well as my nose to the fact we need better waste management systems and public education.
Together with my First Year Student Outreach Program colleagues from Boston University, I have worked today at Save That Stuff, Inc. to help out at the plant and learn about different recycling systems. In a study to find out if machinery to sort single-stream recycling on site is worth the cost, we sorted through two dump-loads of this material. The numbers just aren’t adding up. Obviously non-recyclable items (ahem, food waste) were mixed in with the various papers, plastics, and scrap metals that we were looking to extract. However with a little public effort, this problem can be eliminated.
Besides working to better recycling on site, Save That Stuff, Inc. is taking on a whole new concept of reuse and conservation. Oyster shells are the new wave; by collecting the discarded shells from local Bostonian restaurants, workers at Save That Stuff are able to cure them over a one-year process that allows the shells to be reintroduced into the ocean, increasing the species reproduction rate. These shells weigh forty pounds per five-gallon bucket; many of said buckets were spray-painted by our group throughout the day. Rather than sitting in a landfill, the shells are now used to better the environment and make for a more sustainable food source.
Working on site has been impactful in that we all now understand the work that goes into the recycling process and the importance of public education. Plainly, if people give us garbage, they will get garbage back. Waste material must be separated properly and responsibly to be of use. I know that I for one will be more careful about what goes into my recycling bin …..will you?
By Shannon Linder, Boston University 2018