Is Marion County Too Small to Make a Difference? I Don’t Think So.
Recycling in Marion County should be a priority. In reality, we should have a composting system by now. But no, instead, we’re suspending the recycling program. It’s 2020, for crying out loud, and this is how we start out the year? Why are we going backwards? This is the opposite of what someone wants to hear when moving into a new community. We have the technology, but not the will. Recycling is not yet accepted as critical to public health, but it should be. You may not see the effects directly or every day, but the more plastic that is produced and the more trash that is wasted, the worse our quality of life will be in time. It takes 22 gallons of water to make just one pound of plastic, and twice as much water to produce a plastic water bottle as the amount of water contained in the bottle. It’s estimated by climate experts that we as a collective race have less than 15 years to change our ways before there’s no going back. I’m barely 17 years old and hearing this puts me to tears. Someday, not far from now, when the world is falling apart, what am I supposed to tell my kids when they ask me why we were so awful to the environment? The thing that people don’t seem to understand is that when you throw something away, it doesn’t actually go away. It doesn’t just disappear. Everything must go somewhere.
Every single piece of plastic that has ever been produced is still here. Did you catch that? Every, single, piece. Plastic doesn’t biodegrade; it breaks down and releases toxic chemicals into its environment over time. And throwing away raw materials, like paper, for example, isn’t any better. In a landfill, buried by plastic and other trash, paper will not decompose because it needs oxygen to break down properly. Even something as natural as an apple will release methane as it rots without oxygen, a greenhouse gas many times more powerful than CO2. You may not think about the water bottle, the toothbrush, or the shampoo you use every day, but everything you do has an impact.
Sometimes I find myself getting frustrated with businesses and the amount of trash they produce, but I realize that many people are simply unaware of the severity of these issues. And you can’t blame them; We’ve all grown up in a linear economy. Think about the life of a plastic spoon: you get it, you use it for probably 15 minutes, you throw it away, and it stays on the earth forever contributing to a toxic environment. It’s the sacrifice of our own health for nothing but convenience. When you break it down, air pollution and plastic pollution are one and the same. The goal that we all need to be in search of is a circular economy. You have to make the choice to recycle, but the important part is that the choice is there for you to make. I choose to recycle because I see the effects that humanity has had on animals, the environment, and ourselves. Did you know that a child dies in India approximately every 3 minutes due to air pollution? Which proves my point that just because you don’t see the problems in front of you every day, doesn’t mean they don’t exist.
Our streets and roads are relatively clean compared to most other cities, and we don’t experience smog or acid rain, but that’s simply due to population. We, in Marion County, as a small and primarily agriculture-based community, have a great opportunity. We could set an example for other counties, creating a ripple effect. The ease and speed at which a low-waste and circular economy is possible here doesn’t even compare to most anywhere else. Remember, it may seem like just one plastic bottle, but it makes a difference. Let’s say that you buy coffee in a disposable cup for $5.00 every day. If you were to buy a reusable coffee cup tomorrow that costs $40.00, it may be a larger initial investment, but it will pay for itself in time. And over the course of a year, you will have prevented 365 cups from going into the landfill. That’s not an insignificant number. One person can and does make a difference.
Shutting down our ability to recycle locally will have a huge impact on our environment. Not only will many people stop recycling all-together, but the kids of this community will also grow up without knowledge of recycling’s importance. No, recycling is not the complete answer to climate change or all of our environmental issues. But it is an important and significant step towards a circular economy and an environmentally sustainable future. As of now, recycling is the option to reuse the plastic that’s already here. Plastic can only be recycled a certain number of times, which it’s always better to choose plastic-free options. However, there is a significant(though slowly closing) gap in available-for-purchase plastic-free items. And living in a small town doesn’t make it any easier, which is why recycling is just as important, if not more important, here in our small community.
When I came home from school on Tuesday, I read on Facebook that Marion County was shutting down their recycling program. I was instantly upset, angry, and confused. And upon discovering the reasons behind this, I was only more confused. Yes, the decision seems intended as temporary, but it seems as if no other alternatives have been put into consideration. According to the Hillsboro Free Press, Fort Riley, a base nearly an hour from Marion, is no longer accepting recycling and the city of Marion has no place to store recyclables due to the current construction of a new Transfer Station. According to Fort Riley’s website, however, the base is no longer engaging in curbside-pickup due to the plummeting market of recyclables, but drop off is still accepted. I have many questions:
- If we were hauling our recycling to Fort Riley every week, why does the shutting down of their curbside-pickup affect that?
- If we can’t store or recyclables in the Transfer Station, isn’t there somewhere else in town that could hold them?
- If our ability to recycle through Fort Riley really is indefinitely suspended, what about Newton? Or McPherson? Or El Dorado? All of these cities are closer than Fort Riley and have access to recycling facilities.
We deserve some answers. We can’t keep ignoring the science behind our self-inflicted environmental issues(Well, I can’t, anyway). To be quite honest, I never wanted to be involved in the drama of politics, even environmentally, but as a citizen of small-town Marion, Kansas, with a passion for the environment, I thought to myself: “This is my city, my town that I plan on living in for the next year and a half, and probably come back to, for at least the next four. I can’t accept this.” So as soon as I heard about this issue, I knew I had to share my opinion. Like I said, I’m only 17. I’m not an expert, nor do I claim to be, but it doesn’t take an expert to make a difference. I’m only trying to do the best I can with the knowledge I have. Thank you for reading.
Written by Anne M. Baliel on Sunday, February 2nd, 2020