We recycle around here. Not!,

published at 2:04am on 04/05/07

Recycling does not happen in Las Vegas, as far as I can tell. I’ve been spending some time out here in the past several months, and the home I am staying in has a large garbage bag in the kitchen, and no form of recycling receptacle at all. When I asked about this, I was told that there is supposedly some magical recycling center somewhere in the city, but that it remains completely hidden to mere mortals (and those wanting to not, say, throw out all of their glass and plastic). The dumpsters outside of the apartment are constantly full, and while New York is working on recycling a quarter of its residential waste in the next several years (and has a fully stocked section of its website devoted to the topic), it seems like Vegas would be simply content to landfill anything and everything that was consumed within the city limits. In fact, a search on the city’s official site for anything resembling information for the concerned citizen interested in recycling is a one-pager on Barriers to Recycling in Las Vegas Hotels and Restaurants. No helpful solutions, just a report on why it’s so hard to keep things out of the landfill.

Of course it’s not just the official policy thats the problem – this city, like everywhere else in the US it seems – lives off of plastic bags. Just the other night, I told the woman at the register at Walgreens that I did not need the plastic bag into which she she had just placed the items I had purchased. First came the initial shock of the idea that I wouldn’t want a bag. Next came a fairly aggressive move involving a mock backhand with her hand raised up over her head and swiping down at me. And finally, the nail in the coffin of this planet, when she handed me my items (shaking her head as if to say “my God, the terrorists have already won”) and tossed the bag into the trash can behind her.

I died a little bit inside at that moment.

On the other hand, I have to remember that I am not living on an island here, as I am when I am in New York City. Space is almost limitless, as anyone who has ever driven to the outskirts of this city and seen the acres and acres of condo developments going up out there, stretching out into the desert, can tell you. According to the aforementioned “Barriers” document on the Vegas DEP website, there is actually no market for recycled glass in Las Vegas, and any glass that wants to be recycled needs to be shipped to California for processing and sale. In light of that, it seems to make perfect sense to just throw everything in a hole and cover it with more sand.

I’ve often said that people won’t actually participate in a recycling culture until either a) they are fined for not doing so or b) it becomes part of a product’s life cycle and they don’t even realize that they are recycling. Anything outside a purchase and dispose situation is too foreign for Americans to understand. Fortunately, some companies are actually taking this to heart. I recently learned that Continental recycles the little plastic trays and little plastic containers that hold their salads as part of the salad and cheese pizza snack that they serve (or at least that’s the line that their flight attendants are told to deliver when asked why they are separating out the plastics from the other trash).

Now I understand that it’s a bit counter-productive to talk about recycling while hurtling across the sky in one of the most polluting contributions our society has given to this planet, but given the realities of modern life (which includes at times, the occasional airplane ride), it’s nice to see a company making small strides towards something resembling an environmental good deed. I wouldn’t go so far as to call it “sustainable” by any stretch of the imagination, but just imagine if everyone took a cue from Continental and began to do their part.

There might actually be something left of this planet for my kids.

Filed under: Observations

At 9:57 pm on 01.08.08, Amber said,

Wow, I really liked it. It made me laugh how you described it because it is absolutely true. Thank you.

At 5:05 am on 03.22.08, liz said,

Clearly written and well stated – wish there was more to read! I die a bit inside as well when they toss my unused plastic bag in the trash… ignorance among the educated is like a constant scratch impossible to itch

At 1:10 pm on 05.10.08, Ashley said,

I agree completely with Liz and her reaction to tossing the unused plastic bag in the trash. I have witnessed the same when telling a cashier that a bag is unnessary. When it was wadded up and thrown into ANOTHER plastic bag under the counter, I had to fight an almost overwhelming urge to jump over the counter and slap her! Dumbass, don’t you understand my reason for not wanting a bag? So that it will NOT be used?

At 1:34 pm on 09.04.08, Shante said,

There are plenty of places to recycle in las vegas. and if you don’t want to drive down and drop it off, republic services will come pick it up for you. You just have to call them up and say “hey I want to be apart of the recycling program.” I am a vegas native and I do not have recycling problems. as for going to a store and not wanting a bag, I bring my own “green friendly” canvas bag with me and I’ve never had a cashier not know what to do with it. I am very green as they say and love to do my part to help the environment. stereotypes are very much apart of the problem.

At 9:45 am on 02.14.10, Richard Leonard said,

We have a patented process that turns dirty broken mixed waste glass into a clean cullet we sell to Owens Corning, Fiber Tek, and Johns Manville. We are in the process of trying to set up one of our processing plants in Las Vegas to process over 3000 tons of waste glass per month. We are in the process of talking with Republic as well as Oakleaf waste. Any help in getting our plant set up in Las Vegas would be helpful.

Richard Leonard
Glass Recycling Group, Inc.
Phone 801 520 9768

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