As recycling receives a special emphasis nationwide this week, two local recycling professionals continue to advocate diverting reusable materials from landfills.
Lori Dicks, Harold Rowley Recycling Center Manager, stressed recycling's environmental benefits.
"Everything we recycle results in new materials for new products, reducing land, air and water contamination," she explained. "While you may not see a financial payoff on your doorstep, each person does have an effect and can make a difference."
Every year, Buena Vista County households recycle 2.4 million pounds of glass, tin, plastic and paper, something Dicks is proud of.
Since the Solid Waste Commission approved mandatory recycling county-wide last year, Steve Neuroth, Sunshine Services, has seen an increase in participants.
"More are doing it all the time, and we thank them," he said. "Really, it saves them in the long run."
On Sunshine Services' designated recycling days, the following items can be placed curbside in transparent bags: clear and amber-colored glass food and beverage containers, aluminum and tin food and beverage containers, clear and colored number one and two plastics, newsprint, magazines and unwaxed cardboard.
Bottles and cans should be rinsed clean, but labels can remain. Lids must be removed, but metallic ones can be recycled.
Windows, mirrors, drinking glasses, ceramics, junk mail, hardcover books, plastic bags, lightweight plastic packaging, Tupperware-style containers, toys, Styrofoam, light bulbs, dishes and crystal are not recyclable and must be put out with the regular garbage collection.
If in doubt, put it in the garbage, Neuroth said. While the county's garbage is now hauled to Carroll, recyclables are dumped in a special area at the Rowley Recycling Center, sorted and sold to be transformed into new products.
"You can help us by doing a good job, because we need to make sure recyclables are not contaminated, such as newspapers with coffee grounds dumped on them," he explained.
Although the Iowa Recycling Association has estimated the state's recyclers have diverted 36 percent of 2.7 million tons landfilled in Iowa annually, landfill amounts are partially influenced by overpackaged products.
"We are a wasteful society---look at at packaging and products you buy in the store," Dicks said.
Neuroth recalled being able to purchase batteries without all the extra plastic and cardboard.
"The clerk handed them to you and away you went," he said, "Now, they come in a bubble package."
Non-profit organization As You Sow has estimated the value of discarded packaging in the U.S. alone is worth $11.4 billion.
In order to cut down on waste, consider re-using plastic containers, such as yogurt tubs, for storage and think about the following questions while shopping: is the product without packaging or minimally packaged, is packaging made from recycled material and is the packaging readily recyclable?
Learn more about America Recycles events by visiting the Iowa Recycling Association's website, iowarecycles.org.