While the skies were gloomy and the temperatures dipped below 40 degrees, children at Hands-On Science Center were happy and creative on Thursday, Nov. 15, while learning about the importance of recycling.
The center, in conjunction with Keep Coffee County Beautiful and the Go Green! Tullahoma committee, celebrated America Recycles Day, along with thousands of other schools, groups and communities across the nation.
America Recycles Day is a nationwide push to promote sustainability and the power of recycling through Keep America Beautiful (KAB), a national nonprofit with a mission to get more Americans recycling and improving their environment.
According to the KAB website, America Recycles Day is the “only nationally-recognized day dedicated to promoting and celebrating recycling in the United States.”
Participants use the day to hold seminars, teach crafts and generally educate their communities about the benefits of recycling, which is precisely what science center officials did on Thursday. Students at the center heard from Tullahoma Alderman Robin Dunn, who spearheads most of the Go Green! Tullahoma initiatives such as promoting the city’s recycling program and heading the city’s Earth Day celebration in April. Tonya Wilkinson, of Keep Coffee County Beautiful, also taught them how to make paper snake bracelets out of recycled toilet paper and paper towel tubes.
“We’re trying to teach them to think about what they have at home so they don’t have to go out and buy stuff,” Wilkinson said Thursday night.
By teaching children how to make things out of found items, Wilkinson said, they can keep some of those items from ending up in a landfill, which both helps the environment and allows the children to express their creativity in new ways.
All activities during the event were geared toward imparting the impact recycling has on the environment, said HOSC Executive Director Sean Amidon.
The event was only planned a few weeks in advance, by Amidon said having anything, even the “simple, small event” at HOSC, can help children understand the impact recycling or not recycling can have on the world.
“We discuss the implications of not recycling,” Amidon said.
Where recyclables go
One facet of Dunn’s talk on Thursday was where recycled materials go, she told The News.
While cardboard and paper usually end up being remade into more cardboard and paper, plastics can be recycled and made into any number of products, she said.
“Plastic is much more varied,” she said, and can be sent anywhere to be made into just about anything.
“You could have a plastic bottle that’s being made into a carpet that your neighbor has down the street, or a plastic bumper that’s on a Nissan car,” she said.
Another portion of Dunn’s lecture involved what she called “the China problem,” which she said has to do with single-stream recycling.
Single-stream recycling is one type of recycling which sees hopeful recyclers putting all their recyclable items into just one place instead of sorting them out into categories like plastics, paper, cardboard and glass.
“You just take all your recyclables and just stick it in one bin,” she said, “and what’s happened is all those products are being cross-contaminated.”
That comingling has led to many purchasers of recyclable materials rejecting entire loads of recyclables due to contamination, she said.
“Instead of having a pizza box that you could have recycled,” she said, “now it’s covered with stuff and grease … and once you get grease on cardboard, you can’t recycle it anymore. It’ll have be thrown out.”
While many places around the country use single-sort recycling, Tullahoma has not moved to that method, which has kept the city’s recyclables much less contaminated than other communities.
“Our recyclables are being seen … by at least two different guys there at the recycling center and the guy that’s picking it up,” Dunn said, which helps to prevent cross-contamination.
Additionally, Dunn said, keeping the city’s recyclables sorted allows the city to sell more product to other distributors.
“It’s important that we educate our citizens so that our stuff is going to be sellable on down the road,” she said. “We want high-quality product that’s clean. You don’t have to wash it with soap or anything, but we don’t want that cross-contamination.”
How to best recycle
According to Dunn, there are simple steps residents and businesses can take to keep their recyclables clean and help prevent product contamination.
“As long as their cardboard doesn’t get any food on it, that’s number one,” she said. Food on paper or cardboard, she added, prevents it from being recyclable.
“As far as plastics and things, as long as it’s rinsed out, that’s pretty good,” she said. Not only does rinsing out plastics and glass jars keep them from being contaminated, it also keeps bugs and other critters away from the materials, which has the added benefit of keep the public works employees safe.
The Tullahoma Recycling Center, located at 942 Maplewood Ave., is open Mondays and Tuesdays from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Wednesdays through Fridays from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and Saturdays and Sundays from 8 a.m. to noon and 1 to 4:30 p.m.
Styrofoam and other No. 6 plastics are not accepted at the recycling center.
For more information on what can and cannot be taken to the recycling center, call public works at 454-1768 or visit www.tullahomatn.gov/recycling.
Erin McCullough may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.