This week celebrates America Recycles Day for the fifteenth time. It isn’t a real holiday when banks are closed and government workers stay home, but is still a good idea. It is a day made up by the National Recycling Coalition in 1997 to create a focus on what recycling does for our country.
How is America doing with recycling? These facts help to show the picture of our 2011 efforts. The national recycling rate is up to 33.8%. We dispose of 54.3% of our waste and burn the remaining 11.9%, mostly at waste-to-energy plants. That is the highest recycling rate we have had in my lifetime. The totals are impressive with now 60 million tons being recycled annually. Also impressive is the amount of certain materials recycled this year in our country. 74% of office type paper is recycled, 57% of aluminum beverage cans and 66% of the steel cans generated by Americans are now recycled. This is followed by 31% recycling of glass bottles, 29% of the milk jugs and 28% of soda and water bottles making to the recycling bin rather than the trash can in 2011.
All this recycling is happening because 193 million households in America put out or deliver recyclables to a center on collection day. That means more Americans will recycle than vote for President next year. Recycling has truly become mainstream in communities and an expected service offered by local governments. Most of the communities now consider recycling a priority that citizens demand and a measure of how progressive the town is to residents and visitors.
Unfortunately, much of this recycling effort doesn’t stay in America. More and more collected recyclables are being shipped overseas. Over 2 million tons of plastic bottles are shipped overseas for recycling annually and 20 million tons of metals now leave our borders for recycling. Most of these exports are heading to Asia to be made into new products instead of staying here and making U.S. jobs. The number one export item to China by tonnage is now newspaper like the type you are reading. Luckily, this isn’t the case in around here. Tulsa paper stays in Oklahoma to be made into new products for all of America.
If you are not recycling, take this week to start. Start with this paper. Recycle this paper and help create jobs here in Oklahoma that helps make America stronger.