Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Bravo For Arlington's New Recycling Program

Effective April 1, Arlington expanded its curbside recycling program for homes. The new program is a big improvement.

Although we haven't yet gotten ours, Arlington residents should expect to get new recycling bins to replace the yellow tubs they've been using. The new bins are much larger, wheeled and covered--more like the trash bins.

Under the new program, residents don't need to sort their recyclable items--just toss it all in the bin. And, more items can now be recycled. Basically, all paper products--newspapers, magazines, junk mail, food containers, even hardback books--can now be recycled. In addition, cardboard can be recycled without the need to cut it up (a chore we won't miss), and even pizza boxes, previously prohibited, can now be reused.

In addition, Arlington now accepts most plastic items, as well as juice and milk containers. Previously, many plastic items, such as yogurt cups, were not accepted. Frankly, there was a lot of confusion in the old program as to which plastics were eligible. Plastic bags can also be recycled through Arlington, so we won't have to save them to take to the grocery store (readers, remember that includes the bags your newspapers come in).

For some reason we don't understand, however, Arlington says it cannot accept "clamshell" containers, as well as plastic cups and styrofoam. We're not exactly sure what counts as a clamshell container, so we'll take a strict view. We'd be happier if the County would take all items--including styrofoam--labelled with a recycling symbol and number, as it would make matters a lot clearer.

Notwithstanding the minor limitations, the overall expansion is a huge improvement. We hope Arlingtonians will take advantage of this new program and increase the percentage of materials that get reused instead of sent to a landfill.

Americans still have a good ways to go on recycling. In Japan, where landfill space is practically non-existent, necessity has been the mother of invention. Japanese households in some cities recycle more than 97% of the material they discard each year (Americans are at around 30% nationally). Eventually, we'll catch up as the economics of recycling make more and more good sense.

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