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Another side to solving our environmental problems.

Another Side to Solving Our Environmental Problems

For years, industry in America has borne the brunt of environmental legislation. It has always been so and always will be. But more and more the burden of cleaning up our mess is being spread around. Not necessarily out of fairness, but out of necessity. Many of the same individuals who have laid it on industry for "dirtying" the air, water and land, are being asked to buy into solving the problem. And a lot of them don't like it one bit.

If you don't live in or near a large urban area, you may not be feeling the pinch yet, but it's a safe bet that you will at some time in the not-to-distant future. Some examples:

For the last several years I have been required to take my car in for emission testing. The nearest testing station is about 20 minutes from my home and I've never had to wait more than 15 minutes in line. It's still a pain in the neck. In fact, I came very close to not passing the test this year, because, as the inspector told me, my engine was not warmed up properly. Since my car must be tested in December he also suggested strongly that I run it at least an hour before bringing it in for testing, and added that in the summer it should only take about 30 minutes.

In any case like this, there will be people who will ignore it, and others who will go to great lengths to avoid it. I've heard of people who live in the testing area, but have purchased and registered their vehicles in other areas to avoid the hassle. In another case, a close the hassle. In another case, a close acquaintance, having been stopped for speeding, was hauled off in handcuffs for not having his truck tested for two years in a row.

Here's another example. Within the last year or so much of the Chicago suburban area has implemented voluntary recycling programs because landfills are simply not available. We are provided with little plastic bins in which to place our newspapers (no magazines or other paper, please), our glass and metal cans. The papers are not to be bound or bagged. The metal cans are to be rinsed out and labels removed. In a major concession a few months ago they dropped us a note saying that we no longer had to remove the labels from glass jars and bottles.

Everything about the program is voluntary except the monthly payment. And we get to vote on a referendum in April on whether we want them to include plastics in the program, for a small, additional fee. Our village reports that 65% of the residents are "taking advantage" of the recycling program, which, of course, begs the rhetorical question, "What are the other 35% doing with their stuff?"

For the same reason the recycling program was instituted, we've also been informed that in the near future, perhaps as early as this summer, our garbage disposal service will no longer accept yard debris (grass clippings, leaves, etc). No one has yet told us what we'll do with it, but I'm fairly certain that some people would like to.

To help out I started using biodegradable garbage bags. Afterwards I discovered that it doesn't do any good because in order to degrade, the plastic must be subjected to a fair amount of sunshine. Since they cover over the landfills on a regular basis, the plastic is never given much of a chance to do its stuff. So, it's back to the standard gray bags for me.

What all this is getting at is this: If we're going to solve our environmental problems, everyone--individuals, families, businessmen and industry leaders--will have to buy into the solution. It's more than a little ironic that so many who point the finger toward industry and expect and even demand that it clean up its act, are not willing to accept or even acknowledge their own role as users and abusers of the environment. Industry will do its part, and despite the personal inconvenience, we must, too.

The recycling and testing programs are a step in the right direction. But the ultimate answer will really come in minimizing waste--hazardous and otherwise--or eliminating it altogether through the design of products and processes that take the environment into consideration at the outset.

As for me, I will continue to put my little red recycling bin out each Friday. It will be full of unbound, unbagged newspapers, cans that are rinsed with labels removed, and glass with the labels attached. Next April 1 will begrudgingly vote to include plastics in the program. I will continue to have my car tested for emissions with a properly warmed engine. I'm not so sure about grass and leaves, though. I do have an idea, but I'm pretty sure my neighbors will not take kindly to a compost heap in my backyard. This one will take a little more thought.
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Author:Kanichi, Dave
Publication:Modern Casting
Article Type:editorial
Date:Feb 1, 1990
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