Tags Posts tagged with "recycle"


Pixabay photo

By John L. Turner

August is my birthday month and as I sat staring at the computer screen deliberating the topic for this month’s “Nature Matters” column, the realization occurred to me that I will be celebrating (or at least recognizing) two-thirds of a century of existence. Yes, my 67th trip around the sun on this blessed, pearl blue planet, the only place we know in the entire physical universe where this most unique and fascinating thing called life exists.  

So, while I graciously accept your projected birthday greetings, I’m going to devote this column to laying out birthday wishes for Planet Earth, wishes that I humbly request you consider acting upon. 

Here’s my eclectic list of wishes for our planetary home and all of its inhabitants:

‘Don’t Bag It’

One of the downsides of our love for the grass lawn is, well, the grass, or more specifically, the cut grass. Common practice for many homeowners is to bag grass clippings, placing the bags at the curb for their municipality to deal with, as though the clippings were a waste product to be gotten rid of. We now know the opposite is true — clippings are an asset which should be left on the lawn to rapidly decompose (or if you object to the clippings being left on the lawn then spread out in your compost pile). Doing so returns moisture and nutrients to the lawn and can reduce your water and fertilizing needs (saving money!). These clippings do not add to the creation of thatch, a common misperception. Plus, grass clippings brought to the dump can result in methane generation, a bad thing since methane is a potent greenhouse gas.  Clippings are bad for both the planet and your pocketbook!  

Recycle aluminum

Manufacturing aluminum from bauxite ore to turn into cans and foil has enormous environmental impacts. It creates significant air pollution, requires lots of energy, and consumes large amounts of water. It is one of the top ten industries driving climate change. In contrast, making cans and foil from recycled aluminum uses about 5% of the energy needed to make these products from scratch. The good news is aluminum is endlessly recyclable and about two-thirds of consumed aluminum is recycled each year so the more we increase that percentage the less we impact the planet from the effects of bauxite ore mining and aluminum manufacture derived therefrom. 

An easy way to promote aluminum recycling is to pick up discarded cans like those  you undoubtedly see in parking lots and along roadsides. I see them too and I collect them, putting them in a small plastic bag I keep in the car until I dump them in a much larger bag lining a garbage can. I bring the bags filled with foil and cans to a local waste or scrap metal company (PK Metals on Route 112 in Coram is currently paying 40 cents a pound)  and then donate the money to the Four Harbors Audubon Society, creating a true triple win situation — more aluminum recycled, less roadside litter, and funds for conservation. Will you join me in this effort?  

Protect birds 

Many bird species are in trouble. A recent study has documented a 30% decline — or about 3 billion less birds in North America today than 50 years ago. There are many causes including habitat destruction, feral and pet cats, window strikes, oil spills, drowning due to at-sea fishing activities, ingestion of lead shot and fishing sinkers, and pesticide poisoning, to name but a few. But these problems present opportunities and there’s much we each can do to protect birds by directly responding to these threats — putting window stickers on problem windows so birds can see them, avoiding a fatal collision, keeping your pet cat indoors or if you can’t, make your next pet cat an indoor animal, not using lead split shot and recycling fishing line, drinking shade grown coffee, and throwing away the pesticide can. Birds very much need our help, and let’s remember we are their only hope, so let’s help them!  

Be kind to other living things 

All life shares a common ancestry that began several  billion years ago, when the first signs of life emerged. This is a fact which we can, perhaps uniquely, understand, fostering an opportunity for a kinder, gentler relationship with all living things. So please be kind to them — move turtles out of the road, while driving slow down for squirrels and other wildlife, and practice accommodation by placing outside, unharmed, house-inhabiting spiders, mice, and snakes. 

To bolster this view of valuing life’s sanctity, remember a thought your parents probably shared with you when it came to empathy for the predicament of others — “putting yourself in the shoes of another.” Imagine, for a moment, being that box turtle or squirrel trying to get across a road. Wouldn’t you love it for the human driver bearing down on you to take their shoe-clad foot off the gas pedal for a moment or maybe safely pulling to the side of the road, stopping, and moving you out of harm’s way? 

Connect to nature by connecting to a local park 

Walk slowly through a park or preserve, practicing the Japanese art of “Shinrin-yoku” or forest bathing. It is shown to lower blood pressure and levels of cortisol, a stress hormone. Leave human distraction behind; listen for a variety of bird songs and calls and the deep croaks of frogs, the lapping waves or running water; breathe in the rich scents of the forest or the salty air of the seashore; and quietly observe all the surrounding life, breathing deeply and intently while you do so.

Connect to the vibrancy that is around you — the green fuse of plant life, the orderly activities of ants around an ant mound, the many patterns of tree bark, the cloud formations you take for granted, and the patrols of darting dragonflies. Maybe you’ll even see the blur of an actively feeding ruby-throated hummingbird seeking nectar from jewelweed. 

Baba Dioum, a Senegalese forester, said in a speech at the United Nations half-a-century ago: “In the end, we will conserve only what we love, we will love only what we understand, and we will understand only what we are taught.” Go forth, being taught by nature, and fall in love, perhaps for the first time or maybe for the 487th time with her beauty, complexity, and magic.    

If these things are done you will have taken measurable steps toward improving your relationship with planet Earth and its treasured forms of life that share the only place in the universe so blessed. What a great birthday present that would be, enough to make me skip the birthday cake.  

A resident of Setauket, John Turner is conservation chair of the Four Harbors Audubon Society, author of “Exploring the Other Island: A Seasonal Nature Guide to Long Island” and president of Alula Birding & Natural History Tours.

METRO photo

By Nancy Marr

With two of our Long Island landfills closing in the near future, we will have to work together to redesign our way of handling waste.

New York State legislators, looking for ways to reduce the plastics sent to our landfills, have designed EPR bills (Extended Producer Responsibility) which require producers to reduce the amount of plastics they use and make them responsible for their final disposal, relieving municipalities of the cost. The EPR bills were not included in the New York State budget but there is hope that the legislature will pass an EPR bill before the summer.

The good news is that this week a bill that would establish as a state goal to “source reduce, reuse, recycle, or compost no less than eighty-five percent of the solid waste generated by the year 2032” was introduced by New York State Assemblyman Steve Englebright, chairman of the Committee on Environmental Conservation, and was passed by the Assembly. We anticipate strong support in the State Senate as well.

Think about all the sources of waste on Long Island: three million people in Nassau and Suffolk (each creating almost five pounds of waste per day), thousands of businesses, dozens of municipalities, and all of these having overlapping layers of authority, interests and goals. Not only does untreated waste spread across our globe pose a major threat to our health and environment, but it also represents an unexploited source of raw material that can be used. In other words, we treat waste as garbage rather than a resource.

Current systems for collecting and disposing of household waste are part of a linear economy, often categorized as “take, make, throwaway.” By contrast, a circular economy employs reusing, repairing and refurbishing, remanufacturing and recycling to return us to a system that keeps products, materials, equipment and infrastructure in use for longer; and most importantly, produces less waste.

Fortunately we have begun to implement new ways of using our resources, many recalling systems from the past. Repair Cafes, working under the aegis of the Repair Cafe International, are creating facilities where consumers teach one another to repair their furniture and appliances. This month, a Repair Cafe will open in Greenport at 539 First Street from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on April 23; it will join 2,333 cafes that exist in eight countries. Learn more about this concept at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LctHCGe91gk.

There are also reuse facilities that fix, update, and sell items that have been discarded, taking the concept of a thrift shop closer to a self-supporting business that keeps waste from the landfill. Producers are looking for more markets for the items created by recycling, which would keep them out of the landfill and make recycling programs more effective.

A Fair Repair Act (S149) was introduced last year and passed in the NYS Senate. This would recognize that consumers have a right to repair the devices they own or use independent repair shops, and require that equipment be designed for durability rather than replacement or disposal. Other states have passed many such bills, but it hasn’t passed in the NYS Assembly.

We need to meet the goals of Assemblyman Englebright’s bill if we are to combat climate change. We have the tools to transition to a circular economy, which will reduce the waste in landfills. The EPR programs that have been designed can reduce the plastics in landfills and other waste depositories. But we need local municipalities and community organizations to educate consumers about what to do — what and where to recycle, where to contribute cast-offs so others can use them, how to compost and how to use the compost.

They will need the support of the county government, the farm bureau, local civic associations, community organizations, churches, and local civic associations to provide training and encourage citizen involvement.

Assemblyman Englebright’s bill was passed by a large margin, suggesting that there is broad public support for building a zero waste economy. Each of us can let our county and state legislators know that we are relying on them to lead the way. To find your elected officials, go to https://my.lwv.org.

Nancy Marr is Vice-President of the League of Women Voters of Suffolk County, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that encourages the informed and active participation of citizens in government and influences public policy through education and advocacy. For more information, visit www.lwv-suffolkcounty.org or call 631-862-6860.

Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn and the Suffolk County Plastic Reduction Task Force calls on restaurants and residents to reduce straw use this summer at a press conference July 2 at The Purple Elephant in Northport. Photo by Amanda Perelli

By Amanda Perelli

A Suffolk County legislator is asking residents to go strawless this summer, along with local participating restaurants pledging to keep from giving out plastic straws.

Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) and members of the Suffolk County Plastic Reduction Task Force, have launched a countywide initiative to reduce single-use plastic straws, named Strawless Suffolk.

The goal is to have 100 seaside restaurants in Bellport, Greenport, Huntington, Northport, Patchogue and Port Jefferson Village take a pledge to stop using plastic straws by Labor Day, according to Hahn.

The initiative’s kickoff announcement was held July 2 at The Purple Elephant in Northport. It is one of 31 restaurants and two schools that have already taken the pledge.

The restaurants that pledge will be provided with a blue turtle decal that states “Strawless Summer 2018 Participant.”

“We can get rid of that throw away culture that we have and move toward reusing, rather than just trying to recycle.”

— Kaitlin Willig

“If you see the sticker, go back to those restaurants because they are doing the right thing,” Hahn said.

To be eligible, restaurants can participate in three ways: Stop using straws completely, provide biodegradable straws made with paper or bamboo upon request and/or provide reusable straws made of stainless steel or glass.

“The task force was created in order to reduce the single-use plastics,” said Kaitlin Willig, Stony Brook
University School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences and vice chair of Suffolk County Plastic Reduction Task Force. “I think we are trying to go about it in a way that educates people, so they make the choice themselves. We can get rid of that throw away culture that we have and move toward reusing, rather than just trying to recycle. We are trying to go through education and make smarter choices.”

Hahn said she’s been participating in beach cleanups for a long time and is always struck with how many straws she comes across.

“We’d go to a restaurant and it would make me so angry when they just put [a straw] in your drink without even saying anything,” Hahn said. “I mean it’s really just a waste. I can’t even say no at this point because it’s too late. If they put it down and it’s wrapped, I’ll just give it back.”

Hahn added that leaving the unused wrapped straw on the table is not enough. She worked in a restaurant and said it is common an unopened straw would be thrown out anyway. She directed those interested in getting involved to take their own pledge with the Skip the Straw campaign, a similar initiative tailored
to get individuals involved by Ocean Conservancy, a nonprofit dedicated to protecting ocean health.

“I think individuals should think about trying to do it themselves,” Hahn said. “You know first and foremost you can be responsible for what you do as an individual and then you can also tell the restaurants you frequent. You can tell them they don’t need to, and they’ll save money if they don’t automatically give out straws. If they make it by request, they can save a lot and then if they do choose to provide some upon
request, make it paper.”

Nearly 90 percent of all marine debris is made of plastic, including plastic straws. Every day Americans discard half a billion plastic straws, many of which find their way into oceans and inland waterways,
according to the press release.