By: Cailey Griffin
Recycling is a task that Chicagoans, just like most Americans, either love or don’t care that much about. Regardless of how someone feels about completing the task, it’s pretty easy to recycle. It’s hard to find a restaurant, office building, classroom, or home that doesn’t have a blue container along with the traditional black garbage bin. No matter how easy it is to recycle, there are still plenty of individuals doing this task incorrectly. When someone is rushing to work and feels they don’t have time to walk all the way over to the blue recyclable bin, they might drop their non-recyclable item in the recyclable bin. Even when someone is not in a huge rush, they might just act under the assumption that a “waste bin is a waste bin” and not care where they drop their non-recyclable item. So why do so many individuals not recycle correctly even when the opportunity to do so is readily available? The reason is simply: lack of knowledge. Sure, people know that recycling is good for the environment and not recycling correctly has negative effects, but most people do not know the specifics of those effects.
Several Chicagoans were asked the question “what happens when you recycle non-recyclable items” and the majority of responses echoed a lack of knowledge.
“I would think it would tarnish the machines that would facilitate recycling things. I’m honestly not sure. It would affect the environment in some way,” Dara McGee (20).
“Someone will probably throw the non-recyclable items in the trash,” Mikal Hartman (21).
“The items altogether become contaminated. I think whoever handles recyclable and non-recyclable items treats the contaminated items as non recyclable altogether,” Marqus Whitman (20).
Most people do not have a clear understanding of the recycling process as a whole and more importantly the implications of not only choosing not to recycle, but recycling incorrectly. This lack of understanding can be traced to the fact that oftentimes formal education on the subject is not provided. Most schools do not uphold a curriculum where a class dedicated to recycling is seen as important or necessary enough to facilitate. So except for a few people who understand the true extent of recycling and the implications that go along with it, most are unclear.
Although placing a non-recyclable item in a recyclable bin out of ignorance, lack of time, or lack of desire may not seem like a big deal, it actually has very serious implications.
Maya Dukmasova from the Chicago Reader spoke to a representative from Chicago’s Waste Management team who said, “One contaminated cart can ruin an entire truckload of recyclables, which may wind up in the landfill instead of being recycled.”
It only takes one individual to place a non-recyclable item in a recyclable bin and ruin the positive affects all the other correctly recycled items could have have on the environment. Factoring in the lack of knowledge displayed by many Chicagoans, there are most likely hundreds of instances where this happens everyday. This situation is preventing Chicago from aiding in the global initiative to help better the environment. Without knowledge, Chicagoans will never fully understand the implications and importance of correctly recycling, and it’s time that knowledge becomes a bigger priority in the city.