Culture Days are here again.
What is culture? Usually we think of creating and experiencing the arts but the word is also used to describe workplaces and countries.
I googled ‘culture’ and found this: “The customs, arts, social institutions, and achievements of a particular nation, people, or other social group.”
The word ‘customs’ is of particular interest. This is the way people do things in their everyday lives including what they do with their waste.
The culture of waste management has change greatly in the last 50 years. We used to use things up and throw them away. No one gave much thought to where ‘away’ was.
Everything went to the dump, a word that describes what happened. Waste was all dumped together in a pile and buried.
In the 1970’s awareness of the negative impact our waste can have on the environment grew. The reality was that these dumps or landfills were taking up huge amounts of space and the leachate was contaminating nearby lakes and streams.
Recycling became an important way to deal with the problem. Metals have been recycled for a long time as it is relatively easy. Cardboard, paper, glass and plastics recycling became important in reducing the amount of garbage and for preserving natural resources.
Some mills were built in North America to recycle the different materials. As recycling rates increased China and other countries began recycling large amounts of North American recyclables.
In 2017 China stopped taking recyclables unless they were contaminant free, a standard that was hard to meet.
Recycling has become the custom in our culture that the China ban has us working to increase recycling capacity, not end the practice.