Growing in up in an incredibly small town in rural Idaho, I deeply struggled with the lack of recycling initiative in the community. I had moved from Boise, which had an ideal system for collecting and repurposing recycled materials, but my move to a more rural area did not reflect the same purpose or value surrounding recycling. We have a ‘recycling center’ that is located outside (keep in mind that it snows 9 months of out of the year) and is often abused. People continue to dump trash and other waste products at the center rather than using it for its intended purpose, meanwhile the center often overflowed with materials often littering the area.

One of the biggest issues is the lack of reliability. A few years ago, we were told that the center would no longer be accepting plastic materials. This causes a major uproar within the community, because people use plastic and it has gotten to a point in our world where it is virtually impossible to avoid plastic use. Because it is cheap and easy to distribute, plastic has been and will continue to be the leading packaging material in the world, and by losing the opportunity to recycle it, we lose the accountability on ourselves to keep the earth clean. Plastic recycling was reinstated in the town, only for us to later learn that it was being burned rather than taking it to a facility that could repurpose it. The toxic fumes were being released into the atmosphere regardless of if the plastic was recycled or thrown away, which deterred many from recycling at all anymore.

Unfortunately, my small town isn’t the only one that has ineffective recycling procedures. A lot of small towns struggle with the funds surrounding upkeep and recycling contractors and can’t reasonably afford to sustain a recycling program. With a close-minded view of one town, having no recycling probably doesn’t affect the world that much, but from a ten thousand foot view of the country, 17,000 small towns with no recycling will make a difference. Our earth is precious, and we are not taking care of it, and I am ashamed of the human race who have destroyed one of the most beautiful planets in our solar system.

I think that packaging recycling programs do work, but only in large cities. There is not enough initiative in smaller towns to maintain upkeep and funding, which in turn means that recycling is forgotten. I feel I have a unique view on the topic having grown up in a rural place and moved to Portland for school. Within the last two years that I have spent at Linfield, I have learned more about sustaining our earth, how important recycling is, and how easy it can be when it has adequate attention. College students are arguably some of the most immature young adults in society, due mainly to a lack of life experience. So, I think it says something important when I have seen more college students care about reducing, reusing, and recycling than I have ever seen in my town. It’s a wake-up call to me that people do care and that recycling is important, but it has to be held with high regard everywhere to actually make a change, and right now it is not.

Essay by: Poppi Arrasmith
Linfield University

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