Last week’s episode touched on the importance of removing pet poop out of the way of the storm water when the monsoon finally swings in, so that the harmful microorganisms it contains do not get into the watershed. The recommended way to dispose of the doo is to flush it down the toilet. Then the wastewater treatment plant will take care of it.
Wastewater treatment plants, however, do currently not have the capacity to remove another group of pollutants: pharmaceuticals. 80% of the waterways in the US contain low levels of antibiotics, hormones, contraceptives, steroids and other prescription drugs. Although the levels are quite low, there is growing concern that long-term exposure to them may adversely affect the health and behavior of animals and humans alike. There are numerous reports of mutations in fish which appear to support this concern.
These products, then, should NOT be flushed down the toilet. The sheriff’s department will gladly take them in. A map of other Arizona take-back locations can be found on the site of the Arizona Crime Prevention Association at acpa.net. It is yet another simple way to keep the preciously little water we have healthy and clean.
Two Steps Forward, One Step Back
Cleanliness is also important when it comes to recycling. The amount of plastic offered for recycling is on the rise. No figures are available for the U.S. at this time, but they may parallel those in the Netherlands. There, the amount has risen 14-fold in the past ten years. At face value, that is a good thing. The problem is that the quality of the materials decreased at the same time.
You can’t recycle every little bit of plastic, regrettably, and when it is contaminated with food remains, it can spoil an entire batch at the plant. The recycling industry is currently in a pinch due to a number of economic factors. Most of these are global, such as the drop in demand for newsprint and the low price of oil, which makes it cheaper to make plastic from scratch than from recyclables. But locally, spoiled batches are certainly a factor too.
You can find out more about the dos and don’ts of recycling on the sites of local recycling companies, such as Waste Management.
What To Do With It?
When you are in doubt about the recyclability of certain items, you can find an extensive directory of recyclable products and recycling services on the site of Tucson Clean and Beautiful. The site, incidentally, offers several other sustainability programs as well. Notable among these is the Trees for Tucson program which offers low-cost shade trees and instructions how to plant and take care of them.
Grass and Glass
Like food remains, broken glass can also totally spoil a batch of recyclables. Glass is a big problem for the recycling industry, because it is worth about as much as the sand it is made of. It is heavy too boot, adding disproportionally to the cost of transportation. Really the only reason it is still being recycled is tradition. Some U.S. municipalities, Santa Fe for instance, have actually abandoned the effort.
Apart from the obvious hazards of discarded glass, there is another one which is especially important during the wildfire season: it can work like a magnifying glass, concentrating the sunlight on a patch of dry grass and igniting it. Similarly, empty cans can become little parabolic mirrors that have the same effect.
The prudent thing to do is to bag all the discards after the picnic or barbecue and dispose of them at home.
And when you fire up the BBQ in a park or forest, please be more mindful than the unidentified tourist who lit up one of Spain’s most prized national parks the other day.
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