The greening of Plymouth County

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The environmental movement, which has been around for centuries, has adopted some new, updated terminology, to keep up with the times and remain relevant.

Being "green" means that you do everything you can to be friendly to the environment. You reduce your "carbon footprint" by using less energy and using energy wisely. Eventually, these environmental ideas will save money. If not in the short term, they more than likely will save in the long run.

An old idea that has gained new life is recycling. Using items more than once before discarding them or using them for something other than they were intended helps.

Recycling was a way of life for those who grew up during the Great Depression and World War II, primarily out of necessity. As the nation became more prosperous and more materialistic, many of these ideas went by the wayside.

About 20 years ago, they came back, again out of necessity. We had consumed and thrown away so many things that our landfills were filling up at a more rapid pace than had been planned. Public planners and consumers were faced with a decision: recycle or prepare to pay a hefty price tag for new landfills.

Recycling has come a long way in those two decades. Now it is nearly as easy to recycle as it is to throw things away. New industries have arisen to use the recyclables and many are traded as commodities.

In Plymouth County, increased awareness and increased ease of use have increased the amount of former waste that is being recycled. Last year, county residents recycled 324 tons of cardboard, paper, plastic, metal and other materials.

In Le Mars alone, officials recorded a total of 191 tons of recycling for the year. That's nearly double what Le Mars residents recycled in 2007. That year the total tonnage of recycling was about 111 tons. The increase from 2007-08 is the biggest in the past three years. Compare that to 87 tons recycled just three yeats ago.

A second monthly pickup will help increase those numbers, as well as increase the amount of money received from the sale of the recyclables.

Even though spring may seem far away, the "greening" of Plymouth County is well underway.