The Sustainability Advisory Board (SAB) would like to weigh in on the recycling survey that will soon be sent out by the city. Although the SAB did not originally intend to make any public comments on the survey before it came out, we are concerned that the front page article and the editorial in the Lawrence Journal-World may shed a negative light on curbside recycling. We now feel prompted to make a statement.
We are happy that the citizens of Lawrence will get a chance to share with city officials their opinions about the state of recycling in our community. We are proud that so many people in Lawrence have shown a great dedication to recycling. Making the trip to a collection center is not always convenient and puts the burden of time and money on the people who want to recycle. Similarly, some have chosen to hire a private hauler to take away cans, bottles, and paper. However, the members of the SAB believe we, as a community, can do better.
Currently, citizens who recycle actually subsidize those who landfill aluminum, steel, bottles, paper and cardboard. We believe that if there were a city-sponsored, city-wide curbside collection of recyclable materials, there would be a considerable increase in the amount of recyclable materials kept out of the landfill. The SAB is tasked with making recommendations to the city of Lawrence to improve recycling. It is this responsibility, in part, that prompted the survey.
Why is recycling important? A recent study by the International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment undertaken in San Luis Obispo County in California and in Washington state has concluded, "Recycling of newspaper, cardboard, mixed paper, glass bottles and jars, aluminum cans, tin-plated steel cans, plastic bottles, and other conventionally recoverable materials found in household and business municipal solid wastes consumes less energy and poses lower environmental burdens than disposal of solid waste materials via landfilling or incineration, even after accounting for energy recovered from waste materials."
Recycling can reduce energy use and air pollution, and can lessen the potential impact on ground water by reducing the reliance on landfills. The journal's study shows, "that energy conservation and pollution prevention engendered by using recycled rather than virgin materials as feedstocks for manufacturing new products, tends to be an order of magnitude greater than the additional energy and environmental burdens imposed by curbside collection trucks, recycled materials processing facilities, and transportation of recyclables to end-use markets."
Like many in our community, the SAB supports and encourages recycling. The city's upcoming survey is an attempt to characterize residents' willingness to pay for, and participate in, this important service. The community is being asked to express its values regarding recycling and resource conservation. We encourage recipients to participate in the survey, and we are excited to see the results.