It's a sad fact – we Americans live in a throw away society – where our landfills are atrociously filled to capacity and our recycling abilities, while much better than decades ago, are still quite lack luster. There's so much more we can do to improve our recycling habits – which is why I connected with Amanda Roa, who is the Environmental Programs Manager at Delta Diablo for the last 21 years – she really knows her stuff when it comes to recycling.
Amanda manages the Delta Household Hazardous Waste Collection Facility in Pittsburg at Delta Diablo, but years before she worked there, she began recycling on her own. She talks about why recycling is important to her. "Growing up in Berkeley, I have been recycling for as long as I can remember," she said. "Some have referred to me as the 'Recycling Person' at work because I am known to occasionally pull recycling out of the trash and give co-workers a friendly reminder to recycle! I enjoy the outdoors and am very aware of the limited natural resources on this planet. While far from a hardcore environmentalist, I like to do what I can to help protect our planet for future generations."
I asked Amanda to bust some recycling myths for me. She said one of the most common ones is that many people believe that everything can only be recycled once. Not true, she said! "Glass and metals can effectively be recycled indefinitely," she explained. "The average piece of virgin paper can now be recycled five to seven times before it gets too degraded, but can then still be made into lower-grade materials such as egg or packing cartons. Plastic is the material that is limited to being recycled once or twice, which is why eliminating the use of plastic is best for the environment."
I'm SO guilty when it comes to single use plastic bottles, so after interviewing Amanda, I've decided to use a reusable, metal water container for trips where I take my water with me. My guilt was growing and I began squirming during the interview, so in order to make myself feel better (ha!), I turned things around and asked how our community was doing in their recycling efforts. Kind of felt like pointing at my sister or brother when I got in trouble as a kid.
While Amanda doesn't work in a traditional recycling facility per se, she did have some numbers for me about their hazardous waste collection facility. "Delta Household Hazardous Waste Collection Facility recycles over 70% of the hazardous waste that is brought to the facility," she said. "We track participation at the facility (the number of households that use the facility) and the participation rate has currently increased slowly, but steadily over the years. While the increase in participation is promising, we estimate that only 18% of households in our service area utilize the facility. That means that over 80% of residents are either storing or throwing away hazardous waste in the trash."
I don't know about you, but those numbers are alarming. To think that residents are storing outdated hazardous waste (i.e. anything labeled caution, warning, poison, toxic, flammable, corrosive, etc.) scares me. For easy reference, I've attached a pretty long list found on their website listing items Delta Diablo ACCEPTS. My hope is that people will clear out their homes with these unused and outdated products in their garages, under their kitchen sinks and in their pantries. And if Delta Diablo in Pittsburg is too far for people living in Discovery Bay, Brentwood, Byron, Knightsen, Oakley and Bethel Island, simply go to www.earth911.com for the location of the closest facility.
So what are some of the things we can do now, as individuals and as a local community? Amanda said to start recycling at a young age! "Start them young!" she said. "If we teach kids the importance of recycling, they often police their parents, and it becomes a normal life-long practice. Another easy tip, and probably the most impactful one, is to stop purchasing single-use plastics. The use of a reusable bottle, bag or straw can have huge benefits to the planet. About 38 billion water bottles end up in U.S. landfills each year."
Recycling is important to everyone for various reasons. For Amanda, she feels it's important because there are multiple benefits that include environmental and economical. "According to the U.S. Environmental Protection agency, the benefits of recycling to the planet are clear, particularly in the area of energy and greenhouse gas reductions," she said. "Recycling metal cans (aluminum, steel and tin) can save up to 95 percent of the energy needed to make new cans from raw materials. Additionally, there are benefits in litter reduction, as well as job creation."
Our planet IS taking a serious hit with everything we throw away. "According to a study done by the University of Georgia, 18 billion pounds of plastic trash winds up in our oceans each year," said Amanda. "To put that in perspective, it's enough trash to cover every foot of coastline around the world with five full trash bags of plastic - compounding every year."
So now, we can NOT say that we didn't know what to recycle and where to take our hazardous waste materials – as the saying goes, 'With knowledge comes power!' We now have to do our part to do our best to recycle.
I have a friend in Brentwood who, in public, picks up a piece of garbage from off the ground and throws it into a trash can every single day of his life. It's just a personal commitment he made over 15 years ago. Every time I see a piece of trash on the ground, I think of him! And while it doesn't have to do with recycling, it still has to do with keeping Mother Earth beautiful and clean and hazard-free.
Self Storage Is Part of The Solution Too
We are Cypress Self Storage, Oakley's newest self storage facility currently under construction. We truly love our community and our environment. And, we believe that self storage is part of the solution. These days, far to many consumers are throwing out perfectly good items due to lack of space. At Cypress Self Storage, we view self storage as an extension of your home, part of your lifestyle. Rather than parting with your treasures, consider storing them at our facility (when we open our doors for business later this year). When you have a self storage unit, you have more space for the important items in your life, allowing you to keep the items that are important to you well away from the landfill.
By the way, Delta Household Hazardous Waste Collection Facility is located at 2550 Pittsburg-Antioch Hwy, Pittsburg, CA, 94565, (on Arcy Lane, just off of the Pittsburg-Antioch Hwy, between Auto Center Drive and Loveridge Road) and serves Antioch, Bay Point, Bethel Island, Brentwood, Byron, Discovery Bay, Knightsen, Oakley and Pittsburg. It is free for residents and open Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Visit them at their website www.deltadiablo.org.