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Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: The where's, why's and how's

Reduce, reuse, recycle: a phrase that has lingered throughout society for the last few decades. Coined in the mid 1970’s, its origin is able to be tracked back to around 1976 when the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act was established and becoming environmentally conscious was on the rise. Despite its frequency, its overall meaning is never less important.

The first step to helping the environment is to reduce. Reduce the amount of napkins you take when at a fast food restaurant. Avoid purchasing and using single use plastic water bottles and instead carry an eco-friendly reusable water bottle. Cut down on the use of paper or plastic cutlery and plates; just dirty the dish and take the extra few minutes out of your day to do the dishes after your meal. Bring your own reusable shopping bag when at the grocery store or the mall instead of using plastic bags that you’ll throw away later. These simple actions serve to cut down on the immense pollution that come out of your own homes every second of the day, and this is the first step to making a positive change to our environment.

Next up is reuse. This applies to reusing paper bags from the store, washing out containers that food and condiments come in and reusing them for food storage, passing old cell phones and televisions off to family and friends, and many more simple tasks. It also accounts for clothing and common household objects, which can be dropped off at your local thrift store and sold at a low price for those in need. On Memorial Ave in West Springfield, Savers accepts all types of clothing as well as books, DVDs, household items including china, decorations, cutlery and much more. Items can be dropped off free of charge at any time during the business day. The simple act of reusing is a large part of helping save the planet by making more use out of the limited available resources instead of just throwing them away.

The first two parts of the slogan are reasonably easy to understand and follow, but the last part of it is the one that is often misunderstood and overlooked.

Lastly and possibly most complex is recycling. We recycle for the sake of protecting our planet from the harmful effects of improper waste disposal and to reserve the resources and energy that are constantly depleting from the planet. Each town has different regulations regarding recycling as most areas must deal with the products in certain ways. Nowadays, most common household objects are able to be recycled: electronics, glass, metal, paper. Products are taken to a local facility to either be broken down in order to be reformed into different types of material, or they are disassembled and used for their specific parts. The main items that are taken apart are electronics, for their innards and building materials contain aluminum and other scarce resources. There are different locations for these items to be conserved, however; not everything can fit in your blue and green recycling bin and be picked up on trash day.  

West Springfield as a whole does their fair share of recycling and promoting green habits. The town’s Department of Public Works (DPW) is responsible for this aspect, spearheading the worldwide resource epidemic head-on by making it easy for residents to do the right thing. Of the two barrels that they provide, the one with the green cover is for recyclable products only. Our town specifically uses single-stream recycling, meaning all products are able to be disposed of in the blue and green bin and residents are not required to separate paper and plastic products. A plethora of different materials are able to be responsibly disposed of, all of which are delivered to the Springfield’s Material Recycling Facility (MRF). The main materials that are accepted include paper, plastic, metal and glass items.

There are quite a few items that our recycling bins do not currently accept, including styrofoam, plastic bags, plastic cutlery, plastic cups, used pizza boxes and more. A lot of these objects, including CDs, pots, pans and other cooking ware, clothing hangers, etc. can be donated to your local thrift store to be reused, as mentioned above. For a complete and specific list of what your recycling bins do and do not accept, click here.

Upon arriving to the MRF, recycled products are separated by their specific material: paper (including cardboard, mail, newspaper), plastic (bottles, containers), metal and glassware. All products must be treated differently in order to get the proper use out of them in their second life.

Paper products are stripped of their ink through a chemical rinse process, grinded down to small particles and then rolled up into wads to be sent to recycled paper product manufacturers. This new eco-friendly material can be used to make an infinite amount of new objects: notebooks, toilet paper, and even non-paper items such as home insulation, hospital gowns and band-aids. Plastics are separated into categories depending on the type, which can be found on the underside of most products. The different types range from numbers one through seven. Similar to paper, the categorized plastic is grinded up into smaller pieces that can then be melted down and formed into other objects including trash barrels, clothing and more plastic containers. Glass is also grinded into fine pieces and melted down to then be formed into door knobs, countertops, tiles and more. Lastly is metal, which is heated up to 2800℉ and then put in molds to form aluminum cans, hardware and even construction/building material.

As of July 2, 2018, the town yard no longer accepts electronics, propane tanks or fluorescent lights. However, West Springfield is fortunate to have a household hazardous waste disposal program. This year, the date for proper disposal will be November 3 between 9am-12pm. At the DPW yard at 430 Westfield Street, residents with appointments for drop off will be able to bring items including chemicals and fertilizers, lead and oil based paint, batteries and more. Electronics will also be collected. Appointments are set in ten minute intervals and will be accepted starting October 22. Call 413-263-3234 and leave a message with your name, preferred time, address, phone number and a list of items you are wishing to drop off. A full list of eligible items and more in depth information can be located here. For information regarding West Springfield’s bulky rigid plastic recycling, which collects items ranging from laundry baskets to small swimming pools, click here.

Electronic recycling is important due to the metal and hardware being scarcely available worldwide. If you are looking to dispose of a great amount of products before November, Totaltech Recycling Company at 91 Pinevale Street in Springfield accepts a wide range of electronics including televisions, computers and monitors, phones, radios and much more. Most items are able to be dropped off free of charge, but televisions and CRT monitors require a $10-$20 disposal fee. Accepted materials are able to be dropped off on Friday’s between 9am and 3pm. Visit their website more inclusive list of what their services offer.

Repurposing our planet’s resources and using what we already have before harvesting more has never been more important than it is right now. As each day passes, it becomes more and more crucial to preserve Earth’s raw materials and treat our planet as nicely as possible. Everything on Earth is limited, and there are no endless supplies in sight. Every action counts, and every person counts. If you have specific questions about certain items you wish to properly dispose of, the Springfield MRF has a full list on their website of common objects with descriptions on how to handle them. The “what do I do with…” page can be found here