As citizens of Frederick County, we hold a special responsibility to keep our community clean and safe. One of the simplest ways to accomplish this is by living a sustainable lifestyle and recycling. However, it has become apparent that recycling is not simple for everyone. I have heard dozens of reasons why certain households have chosen not to recycle, but it often boils down to accessibility. It has become clear that recycling just isn't worth the time for many families. How can you blame them when, for some, recycling in the valley involves tedious sorting and driving to the collection facility and back?
In 2019, Frederick County recycled over 11,000,000 pounds of material, an increase of 2.3 million pounds from 2018. From these numbers, it looks like we are doing great as a community. However, there is still room for improvement on accessibility for all community members. In early 2018, China stopped taking most of the recycling materials that the United States shipped to them. Businesses that processed recycled materials throughout the community went bankrupt, recycling rules changed, and many cities canceled their curbside recycling programs. Rules about what items can be recycled have also changed, as pizza boxes and glass are no longer accepted in Frederick County. With a huge gap in education about these rules, many community members do not recycle properly, causing their recycling materials to go straight to the landfill. For example, if you send your materials for recycling in a plastic bag, the whole bag will get rejected and thrown away.
The first and simplest, way to solve this problem is through educating the community about local recycling policies. For example, upon renting or buying a house, papers educating the residents about local recycling protocols could be given to people. Residents should also receive recycling bins for each category (plastic, cardboard, etc.) to have in their homes. Frederick County has several educational services that can be utilized in our school/work settings. Overall, this would help reduce the amount of work it takes to sort through recycling materials, motivating more households to implement recycling into their life.
Another aspect that needs to be changed is the accessibility that community members have to recycle. In Frederick County, there are many rural areas that have no residential recycling pick-up. Community leaders should push for an increase in residential recycling collection programs. These programs should focus on making recycling as accessible as dumpsters are. Our towns could have temporary pop-up recycling sites dispersed in high areas of traffic (grocery stores, downtown, etc.) where community members can conveniently drop off their recyclables. We should also advertise local recycling efforts like Save-a-Sole shoe recycling, ReThreads textile recycling, and TreeCylce Christmas tree recycling.
It is up to each of us, as residents in Frederick County, to help increase the accessibility and understanding of recycling in our community. Through more education and funding, recycling can become something that every community member participates in.
Samantha Libasci lives in Stephens City and is a student at Shenandoah University.