Recycling will reduce plastics and extend life on earth.
Officially, Earth Day was celebrated on Monday this week, but there is something everyone can do every day to make the world a better place for all: recycle.
While some surrounding counties have shut down their recycling centers, the Pratt County Recycle Center remains a vibrant part of local infrastructure, even after surviving the flood of Labor Day 2018.
The voluntary participation of area residents remains key to the continued existence of the recycling center. Most agree is it much better to turn #1 or #2 plastics into a park bench rather than continue to fill the local landfill. The Pratt County Recycle Center makes this possible.
Like many of his generation, recycle center employee and Pratt native Casey Ziehr did not know much about recycling, or even care about it, before he started his current job.
“In school, I was not taught about recycling at all. You just know that a guy comes and takes your trash away,” he said. “Now I understand recycling and how important it really is and how easy it can be.”
The Pratt County Recycle Center has convenient hours, being open from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., Tuesday through Friday, and 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays.
Current recycle center staff is working to make it as easy as possible for local residents to recycle their household and business waste.
Customers may bring their items into the building, entering on the east end of the building. Once inside, employees help unload recyclables into the appropriate bins.
A list of accepted items for recycling can be found at http://www.prattcounty.org/209/Recycling-Center. Hours open and items not accepted are also posted on this website.
One important issue for Ziehr is global warming and how recycling can help to reduce its impact.
“What keeps recycling growing is the belief that we want to continue our species,” he said. “Unless we think of global warming as a natural disaster and that we want to do more, nothing will change.”
He said that 33 percent of all things created in the world are not recyclable.
“If it is cheaper for the manufacturer to create material with raw ingredients rather than recycled products, then that’s what they’ll do.”
He said he hopes that this fact will change over time as global manufacturers see the bigger picture and create products and packaging that can be recycled and thus have less impact upon the environment.
Another fact Ziehr contemplates is that oil is used to create plastics. As manufacturers create more and more single-use plastic products, rather than create ones that are recyclable, increased oil exploration will be necessary, which, if one traces out the connection, will ultimately contribute to climate change (see https://www.surfrider.org/coastal-blog/entry/the-link-between-fossil-fuels-single-use-plastics-and-climate-change.)
“There are a lot of plastics today,” Ziehr said. “Why do we have a plastic island in the middle of the ocean?”
Despite the many challenges facing those on earth today, Ziehr said he is optimistic about the future of recycling in Pratt County.
“I’d say the majority of people do care. I wouldn’t expect us to disappear,” he said.
Casey views education as the best hope for our future.
“We have the chance to fix it. We can educate people. We can make things better. It just takes time,” he said.
He surmised that sometimes the fear of the unknown can prevent people from taking positive action to cure a problem, such as participating in a recycling program.
“We just don’t like to do things that we don’t know or understand because we fear what we don’t know,” he said. In other countries, they are educating preschoolers about recycling. Here, if more businesses would recycle products, then the people working there might be encouraged to do it.”
Ziehr said he has seen a positive recycling trend already present in the state and the community. He hopes this will only increase over time.
“In Kansas, there are no mandates for recycling. However, even without mandates, we recycle at 33 percent, and that’s the national average,” he said. “There is a business in Hoisington that is 100 percent recyclable. It took them time and some money and some years, but they did it.”
With the quality recycling center located in Pratt, area residents have every opportunity to make a difference in the longevity of earth, whether is it Earth Day week, or not.