The annual event of Earth Day is 50 this year. Time flies when trying to save the planet.
I became aware of this special day early in the 1990s while in college. This was mainly due to set ups celebrating the day outside the university center and where I worked while in school. I was a student assistant at an organization called Energy Environment and Resources Center (EERC) located in offices at Neyland Stadium.
I was learning about cleaner products and technology, water resources, the possibility of electric cars and so much more. There were several groups under the EERC umbrella with talented researchers, engineers and scholars. It was a diverse group of people who wanted to make the world better and cleaner.
At the office we recycled paper and cans. Before that I never thought about separating items from trash to save for reuse. Since then I haven’t been able to stop my recycling efforts. I used to have a bin for paper, cardboard, glass, aluminum, metal cans and plastic. Then something happened in the last few years to pare down my bins and recycling efforts.
The group is now called the Institute for a Secure and Sustainable Environment and it moved to the old Miller’s department store on Clinch Avenue.
Knoxville started a program where containers very similar to the ones here in town were provided to city residents, but for recycling. It’s picked up every other week at your house and you didn’t have to separate the items. All you had to do was rinse out containers and roll it to the curb.
Before that, there were locations of to drop off your items. There was a category for pretty much everything that could be used, repurposed or transformed again.
Relocating back here I went back to my old habit of separating my recyclables. On my first trip to the local site I was dismayed that cans for soup or other foods didn’t have a container. Later I learn the plastic I saved and left wouldn’t be saved but trashed. This one hurt. My coffee creamers, water bottles, cola 2 liters and detergent containers are all plastic.
Plastic isn’t economical for businesses to save anymore and the resources to do just that are limited. This problem is nationwide. When I researched for answers I found an unsettling fact. Even the most suitable plastic is only recycled at a rate of 20-30%, with the rest typically going to incinerators or landfills, where the carbon-rich material takes up to 1,000 years to decompose.
It goes against my grain to throw things away that I have been conditioned for decades to save. I will continue to do my part though and help where I can. Old habits die hard and I won’t give up.
Maybe when the pandemic is over I will find a weeping cherry or redbud tree to plant. Luckily I live in the perfect area to find one.
Standard reporter Jennifer Woods can be reached at 473-2191.