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Recycling helps keep America beautiful

Saturday is America Recycles Day.

The observance began in 1997 by the National Recycling Coalition to raise awareness of recycling and encourage the purchase of recycled products, and since 2009 it has been part of the Keep America Beautiful campaign. This year’s theme is “I Want to be Recycled” and the mission has changed slightly. Now, the aim is to educate people about the importance of recycling to our economy and environmental well-being and motivate occasional recyclers to become everyday recyclers.

We shouldn’t really need a day to remind us to do our part to preserve and protect our Earth. But … whatever it takes to make a difference helps. Every little bit counts.

In Boulder City, residents can use B.C. Waste Free’s single-stream recycling program. What that means is that residents — and businesses and visitors — can simply put all their recyclable material into one container. That’s it. There’s no sorting.

The result, according to Mike Pacini, recycling coordinator for Boulder City Disposal, is that it dramatically increases recycling rates, eliminating thousands of tons of trash from the landfill.

And that is extremely important because the life of the city’s landfill is limited. It has been a concern for city officials for years, the former councilman said.

Even though the recycling program is only 2 years old, the response has been beyond expectations, he said. Generally, it takes anywhere from three to 10 years to get the amount of participation that Boulder City already has.

“The residential impact has been incredible,” Pacini said. “Businesses have done a tremendous job.”

According to Pacini, 3,500 homes have recycling containers and 80 to 90 percent of businesses in town participate in the program.

“It’s so easy,” he said, noting that there is no charge for the containers and he is happy to bring out additional bins if people have a need for them.

The biggest challenge for the recycling program are the city’s special events, and Pacini said he is working on that.

The list of items that can be recycled is probably larger than you realize.

For example, did you know that cereal and juice boxes can be recycled? So can milk cartons and frozen food boxes. The same is true for plastic bottles of all shapes and sizes, and any plastic item numbered one through seven.

Metal and aluminum cans are recyclable. But did you know that small metal appliances and aerosol cans (except for those containing hazardous materials and paint) are?

And don’t forget to toss that junk mail into the recycling bin before it ever crosses your threshold.

Pacini said it is important to try to make sure plastic, glass and metal containers are empty, but it is not necessary to rinse them completely.

“Don’t try to overthink it too much,” he said of people’s recycling efforts. “Take a pizza box, for example. If the top is clean but the bottom has a lot of cheese and oil on it, just tear it in half, recycle the top and throw the bottom part away.”

Other items that are recyclable — but not in your curbside bin — are plastic bags, electronics and textiles. Those need to be taken to special centers that can accommodate them.

“When material is recycled, you’re ‘giving your garbage another life’ as it becomes something new and valuable,” said Jennifer Jehn, president and CEO of Keep America Beautiful. “For example, a plastic bottle can be recycled into new containers, T-shirts and fleece jackets, park benches, plastic lumber and more. America Recycles Day can inspire people to reduce, reuse and recycle — and realize that recyclable materials have the potential to become something bigger.”

To further encourage recycling projects, the America Recycles Day campaign is sponsoring a variety of events and a selfie contest. Just take a picture of yourself participating in some type of recycling activity and post it with #recyclingselfie before Nov. 20 for a chance to win a prize.

But with all of that recycling going on, I think we are all winners.

Additional information is available at www.bcwastefree.com or http://americarecyclesday.org. Pacini said he also is available to speak with any group or organization that would like to learn more about recycling.

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