The Nitty-Gritty of Commercial Recycling

 At the risk of indulging a deep-seated delusion of grandeur, it might not be hyperbole to say that humans are the dominant species on the planet. This isn’t because we’re the most populous species, or the biggest and the strongest; in fact, by nearly every metric used to measure the size, power, and longevity of a particular species in the Animal Kingdom, humans don’t top out the spectrum in any demonstrable way﹘except for maybe one: our intellect.

While we are not the only species of high intelligence on the planet﹘dolphins, primates, elephants, and crows all exercise extremely high cognition, being able to communicate, recognize, and problem solve﹘humans are the animals all other animals make way to accommodate. 

When the COVID-19 pandemic really began in earnest in early 2020 and people began to quarantine in place at home, nature began to respond in interesting ways. While it was initially reported, erroneously, that dolphins and other fish had returned to the waterways of Venice, the water did begin to clear up of much of the pollution; birds, too, began to come back into major cities after the noise pollution began to die down. This lead to a short-lived national birding craze as people began to spot types they had never seen before.

Environmentalism (or the lack thereof) is a problem we all know about, but our response to it has been spotty at best. For those who would respond well to earnest education of the state of the environment and how we can improve it, many are turned off to the more abrasive tactics of their environmentally-conscious acquaintances﹘no matter how compelling the information.

The Burden of Responsibility

Who has the responsibility then, to get educated? Who has the responsibility to recycle? Who has the responsibility to change? Naturally, the answer is all of us. But another wrinkle to that is that those with the means to do more should do more, and in the realm of systemic change, those strides must be taken by corporations.

Sifting and Dumping

At the heart of systemic change lies cooperation between businesses to see that green initiatives are not only established but enforced. This means that waste management companies can strike a deal with companies for exclusive rights to use their dumpsters, or that more resources will be given to those companies to make recycling easier on their employees. There are many who call for the government to get involved, and institute a system of breaks and penalties for companies that don’t hit a particular threshold of recycled waste.

As with all things, education is critical. Helping companies know how much good they can be doing, and how to accomplish it, is a great first step in beginning this cooperation. Businesses, like regular individuals, need to know what of their waste is fit for recycling, what constitutes hazardous material, and what should be dumped. Some forward-thinking waste management companies do this sifting themselves before taking their load to the landfill, but unfortunately, most do not. 

The Big Players

Of course, not all companies are created equal in terms of their carbon footprint. Yes, every major corporation creates millions of tons of trash annually, but some have farther to go than others in terms of environmentalism. In this regard, the fast-food industry might be the biggest culprit. Recent studies have shown that second only to cigarette litter, trash from fast food constitutes the biggest source of urban waste in the world. 

The irony is not lost on the fact that the food most likely to decay our teeth and choke our arteries generates the very trash that decays and chokes our waterways and oceans. As gutters fill with styrofoam cups and plastic bags, that refuse gets pushed into storm drains that eventually lead to the sea. These same scientific studies have concluded that the fast-food industry is the single biggest contributor to marine debris in the world. Of course, that doesn’t absolve the consumers of this food, who choose to litter instead of recycle. But green initiatives like biodegradable products and incentives for franchise cleanliness start at the top.

Being Conservationally Minded

One of the best industries for recycling is the construction industry. Because of the sheer volume of refuse that they produce on every job, more and more companies are starting to think conservationally. As buildings get built or demolished, these companies keep tabs on the types of materials that can be used again on future projects; steel, sand, glass, and wood are among the most common types of materials they collect.

The goal of every environmentalist﹘even the ones that speak in raised voices and type in all caps﹘is for each of us to be more conscientious about how we can improve. Great strides don’t have to be done in an instant; in fact, the world would look vastly better if everyone stuck to little changes. After all, Venice had clear water after only a month of quarantine.

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