Americans produce an immense amount of trash every year–more than 240 million tons, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. The amount of paper alone that is thrown away in the U.S. each year would build a wall twelve feet high that stretches from New York to Seattle (source: National Recycling Coalition). Much of this solid waste is material that could be reused and objects that are disposable and will quickly be replaced by new objects.

Recycling saves energy because in most cases, it takes less energy and fewer resources to make something from an existing item than to start from scratch and make it new from raw materials. For example, making a soda can from raw bauxite requires twenty times as much energy as making a can from recycled aluminum. The EPA estimated that in 2005, recycling saved at least the equivalent of the annual energy use of 9 million households.

Our “disposable” culture encourages us to believe that we can continue to use the earth’s limited resources–including the fossil fuels that power most of our economy–without having to consider the consequences. But as we face the growing realities of climate change, oil depletion, and other results of our modern lifestyle, it is becoming clearer to many people that we must become more conscious about our use of all types of resources. Shifting to a more attentive use of resources and the products made from them is an important step toward becoming more conscious citizens of the planet.

Click below for information about recycling hours and operations in:

The Franklin County Solid Waste Management Districtoffers many good ideas and links on recycling, including information about recycling at festivals and other public events (click on “Events Recycling Guide“).

Visit the Environmental Protection Agency’s many pages of information about recycling here. The EPA also has a page for kids about the links between recycling and reducing global warming.

The National Recycling Coalition site contains ideas for consumers, businesses, and municipalities.

For Massachusetts residents, check the state Department of Environmental Protection recycling page for information and ideas.

And there are also lots of other ways to recycle besides the “blue bin” model!

  • Patronize used and vintage clothing stores, such as these in Worcester County and these in Franklin County.
  • EcoBuilding Bargains in Springfield accepts used homebuilding materials for resale. So does ReNew Salvage in Brattleboro.
  • Compost food and yard waste–a great way to improve your garden soil and reduce waste at the same time! Learn about composting here and here.
  • Mass Material Trader is a free service that helps Mass. businesses and organizations find homes for surplus materials. Freecycle does the same thing, but for individuals.
  • Reduce or eliminate plastic shopping bags by returning clean plastic bags to a recycling center (in the North Quabbin area, Hannaford Supermarket accepts bags) and/or using cloth bags to carry your groceries.

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