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Practice the 3 Rs

Practice the 3 Rs
Messenger Associate Editor
Americans produce a lot of waste. In fact, the United States Environmental Protection Agency has reported that in 2005 the United States’ population generated more than 245 million tons of municipal solid waste.
While 245 million tons sounds like a lot, Americans are doing a better job at reducing that waste by decreasing the amount by 1.6 million from the year before. In 2005, Americans also recycled 58.34 million tons of waste, an increase of 1.2 million tons from 2004, and composted 20.6 million tons, up from 20.5 million in 2004.
Municipal solid waste — or trash or garbage as it is commonly called — includes items such as product packaging, grass clippings, furniture, clothing, bottles, food scraps, newspapers, appliances and batteries.
The EPA’s Office of Solid Waste has reported that, on a per capita basis, 2005’s waste generation at 4.54 pounds per person per day is only slightly higher than the 1990 rate of 4.50 pounds per person per day. The generation rate in 1960 was just 2.7 pounds per person per day; it grew to 3.7 pounds per person per day in 1980; reached 4.5 pounds per person per day in 1990; increased to 4.6 pounds per person per day in 2000; and returned to about 4.5 pounds per person per day in 2005.
Recycling rates over the years have also increased. About 10 percent of the municipal solid waste generated in 1980 was recycled. It went up to 16 percent in 1990, to 29 percent in 2000 and to 32 percent in 2005.
Disposal of waste to landfills has decreased from 89 percent of the amount generated in 1980 to 54 percent of municipal solid waste in 2005. The EPA reported 39.8 percent of containers and packaging generated in 2005 were recovered for recycling. Other items recycled in 2005 included about 45 percent of all aluminum cans; 36.3 percent of all aluminum packaging, including foil; 63.3 percent of steel packaging, mostly cans; 58.8 percent of paper and paperboard containers and packaging, mostly corrugated containers; 25 percent of glass containers; 15 percent of wood packaging, mostly wood pallets removed from service; and more than more than 9 percent of plastic containers and packaging, mostly soft drink, milk and water bottles.
Still about 54.3 percent of municipal solid waste was placed in landfills across the nation. And that percentage is probably higher for Obion County.
According to Obion County Waste manager Mike Cary, because Obion County and most of Tennessee is rural, it makes it harder for residents to recycle. Many urban areas, such as Memphis, have curbside recycling pick up — something which is generally not feasible in rural areas. The EPA reported that in 2005 about 8,550 curbside recycling programs existed in the United States.
Still Obion Countians can do their part.
The Obion County Recycle Center, located at 1003 B Mount Zion Road, Union City, accepts items for recycling Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. It employs several part-time employees and has a few volunteers as well.
The center accepts such things as cardboard, paper, magazines, newspapers, junk mail, cereal food boxes, old books and phone books. Cary asks that cardboard and white paper products, which includes junk mail, be separated before it is delivered to the center. He said it’s OK for staples to be in the paper and magazines, but asks that paper clips, bulldog clips and rubber bands be removed. The center cannot accept wax paper, cellophane paper or Styrofoam.
Residents can have up to 50 pounds of paper documents shredded at the recycle center free of charge, with small businesses offered the service for a small fee. He said the person who delivers the paper may watch the items be shredded or may leave them for shredding. Residents who have pre-shredded their white paper may also drop it off at the center for recycling. The Obion County Recycle Center is currently bailing about 120 tons of paper each year for recycling, Cary reported.
Do-it-yourselfers can recycle used motor oil and oil filters from cars and pickup trucks. Up to 10 gallons of oil may be dropped off per visit. The recycle center has a special machine which burns the motor oil to heat the center during winter months.
Residents can drop off up to six old tires from passenger cars, light trucks, lawn mowers, motorcycles, ATV and bicycles per year. Additional tires during the year may be recycled for a small fee. Municipalities and businesses may also use the center’s recycling facility for used tires for a fee.
Electronics may also be recycled. The Obion County Recycle Center has contracted with an outside company to dispose of computers, monitors, keyboards, printers, small copiers, fax machines, small televisions not larger than 25 inches, telephones, cell phones, pagers, video games, VCRs, DVD players, radios, stereos and microwaves. Larger televisions may be brought to the recycling center on May 31 when the department is planning a Household Hazardous Waste Day. (See additional story for more information.)
The Obion County Recycle Center is not the only location for recycling items in the county.
Able Industries will accept aluminum cans, copper, brass and steel.
A&J Salvage and Younger and Sons will take aluminum cans and pretty much anything that’s metal, including any magnetic metal such as car keys, screen windows, copper, stainless steel and brass; radiators; old cars; appliances; iron; tin and farm equipment. A&J Salvage will also accept lead acid batteries for cars, trucks, tractors and lawn mowers.
Mathis Battery Service will accept most rechargeable batteries; lead acid batteries for cars, trucks, tractors and lawn mowers; cell phone and cordless phone batteries; and household batteries, such as AA and AAA. Lowes will also accept rechargeable batteries. Advanced Auto Parts and Wal-Mart will accept used vehicle batteries and used motor oil, while used motor oil can also be recycled at O’Reilly Auto Parts and AutoZone, all in Union City.
Plastic shopping bags can be taken to Wal-Mart and placed in the appropriate boxes at each main entrance. Residents who wish to recycle plastic hangers and code 1 plastic bottles, as well as aluminum cans, may contact store manager David Harris to find out how to utilize bins set up for Wal-Mart employees for those purposes.
Within the past year, Virgin’s Nursery has fulfilled an additional recycling need accepting plastics coded 1 through 7. The plastics, including bottles, should be washed before being dropped off at the Union City business, which will also accept cardboard, white paper and junk mail for recycling.
Another way to reduce the amount of household waste is to reduce the amount coming into the home. Residents can reduce the amount of junk mail coming to their homes by sending a postcard or letter with their complete name, address, zip code and a request to “activate the preference service” to Mail Preference Service, Direct Marketing Association, PO Box 643, Carmel, NY 15012-0643. The Direct Marketing Association will then stop mail from its member organizations for a period of five years. The Direct Marketing Association estimates that listing with its mail preference service will stop 75 percent of all national mailings. For additional was to reduce waste, visit
On the Net:
Associate Editor Donna Ryder may be contacted by e-mail at

Hazardous waste collection
Obion County is teaming up with the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation to collect hazardous waste May 31 from 8 a.m. until 1 p.m. at the Obion County Recycle Center, located at 1003 B Mount Zion Road, Union City.
The collection site will accept:
• Household cleaners, such as drain, oven and metal cleaners; polishes; and disinfectants.
• Paint, thinner, stripper, adhesives and other home improvement products.
• Herbicides, pesticides, fungicides, fertilizers and other lawn and garden products.
• Waste oil and gasoline, antifreeze, oil and fuel additives, refrigerants and other automotive products.
• Tires (six per household), batteries, pool chemicals, aerosols, fluorescent light bulbs, home computers, printers and other miscellaneous ewaste.
The collection site will NOT accept:
• Medical wastes, radioactive waste, vegetable oil, explosives or wastes from businesses, schools, farms and churches.
• Large home appliances such as stoves, refrigerators, etc.
Remember… Keep waste in original containers. Do not mix chemicals. Limit per family is 100 pounds.
Did you know? Small amounts of latex paint can be dried until solid and thrown away in your regular garbage.
Questions? Call 885-8109.
Published in The Messenger 5.7.08