By Chelsea Paschall
This April 22 marks the 51st anniversary of Earth Day, an event conceived by Senator Gaylord Nelson after the world saw Earth from the moon for the first time. President Nixon soon supported the establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency, Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, and national reclamation laws based on Montana’s own newly passed laws.
Celebrating the planet and our relation to nature surpassed politics, and many folks born thereafter can hardly imagine a river catching fire or seeing someone intentionally litter on a roadway.
Today, there are new considerations as we look across our open lands in Montana and live in an increasingly connected world.
Despite the challenges of living in a rural state, the “3R’s”—Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle—are daily choices we can all make to minimize our waste and conserve resources.
One can reduce waste, for example, by letting restaurants know when you don’t need plastic utensils for to-go orders.
There’s also what many consider thrift—using a skillet passed on for generations or setting aside baby clothes for relatives and neighbors.
Recycling is a bit more challenging and takes community effort alongside personal actions. Instead of becoming waste, materials are redirected into the same product or something new.
Aluminum, cardboard, paper, plastic, and glass can be remade into similar products with environmental and economic benefits. Some materials are used as industrial feedstock for products like carpet and insulation.
Many communities are experiencing success with glass recycling through local and regional partnerships. Momentum Recycling out of Salt Lake City is accepting glass from locations across Montana. Along with creating jobs, making products from recycled glass saves energy, water, and raw materials, including sand, soda ash, limestone, and feldspar.
A March 5th CNBC article, “A sand shortage? The world is running out of a crucial—but underappreciated—commodity,” documents that sand is “the world’s most consumed raw material after water,” and we’re running out.
Sand is used in the production of construction materials and glass. Consequently, recycling glass helps conserve this valuable resource.
Another green opportunity is composting food and yard waste to make beneficial soil additives. While many have been implementing this practice for years as “good sense,” not everyone can compost in their backyard. In response, compost collection services for homes and businesses are emerging throughout Montana.
Since last year’s Earth Day, two compost-collection programs started up in Montana’s capital. Billings, Missoula, Bozeman, and Columbia Falls have commercial options as well. In many cases, they accept compostable dishware and other difficult-to-compost items.
This is one of the many ways scaling up a traditional practice conserves resources and produces valuable end products.
Dusti Johnson, a materials management specialist at the Montana Department of Environmental Quality, states, “We need to rethink disposal in Montana.”
Johnson helps communities recycle in every corner of the state, from supporting community recycling in Eureka to collection events in Fort Benton and Sidney. She further states, “We have the common sense in Montana and the equipment to make a resource out of our waste like we do with what we grow and harvest … In the case of cardboard, paper, and plastics, it is a lot like baling hay. In the case of glass and concrete, recycling is more like storing grain or moving gravel.”
Our Nation and Montana have had a lot of success with the three “R’s,” and that success continues to grow across the state. Growth in recycling household materials and compost opportunities have made it possible and easier than ever for more Montana households to minimize their waste.
This Earth Day, let’s all think about some of the daily habits we can make to Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle—to use less and make the waste we do generate beneficial resources. Visit Recycle.mt.gov for more examples and tips. Happy Earth Day! MSN