Keystone Professor Dr. Robert Cook has been teaching a course on global change for over 20 years, but over two decades, the main issues impacting our planet that need to be addressed have stayed the same.
“Climate change and biodiversity are clearly at the top of the list,” he said.
Since the start of the Industrial Revolution and possibly before, humans have been producing greenhouse gases through various activities, causing the climate to warm.
Through research, humans have developed a deeper understanding of the consequences over time.
“It impacts everything from agriculture to the health of ecosystems, sea level rises and precipitation patterns,” Cook explained. “All of those impact humans and the larger environment.”
Staggering accumulations of human trash are another issue, which fill up landfills and even make their way into the oceans.
“The more we can recycle, we can eliminate waste in environments such as plastics accumulating in the oceans and impacting marine life,” he said.
In light of Earth Day, the Wyoming County Recycling Center is reminding residents of what items can and cannot be recycled.
Michael Rogers, recycling coordinator and waste director at the recycling center, said the biggest issue within the county recycling program is residents dropping off unacceptable items.
“We’re seeing a lot of kitty litter buckets, five gallon buckets,” he said. “We take bottles and jars only, but we see a lot of trays, tubs, stuff like that. We see stuff that’s not even rinsed out.”
If possible, the center reaches out to people who leave unacceptable items, and it does have the power to carry out fines if necessary.
“You don’t ever want to stop those programs, but you get people that just don’t pay attention to it,” he said. “You try to rely on the people to do what they’re supposed to and we try to educate them as much as we possibly can.”
The recycling center accepts No. 1 and 2 plastic bottles and jars only, as well as clear and brown glass bottles and jars. However, lids and caps must be thrown away.
It also takes clean tin cans with labels, as well as aluminum cans and pie cans.
Newspaper, brown paper bags and corrugated cardboard are acceptable, as well as magazines, even if stapled and bound by glue.
The center takes office paper, but only white ledger and white computer paper, which have to be dropped off in a separate bag.
All items must be clean to be recycled, and paper and cardboard need to be dry with no oil, grease, paint or food.
In addition to plastic tubs, buckets and trays, the recycling center also won’t accept plastic toys, furniture or plant pots/trays.
Green glass, dishes, light bulbs, cups and window panes are unacceptable. Dirty and rusty cans cannot be recycled, nor can aerosol cans.
Aluminum foil is prohibited, as well as wax cardboard, styrofoam and junk mail.
The center also won’t take carbon copy paper or envelopes with plastic windows.
Rogers said his crew at the recycling center looks through everything manually to ensure that no non-recyclable items get through, as a load could get rejected if it’s shipped out with unacceptable materials.
“Everything is touched by hand except the tin cans,” he explained.
The county has to pay for the backhaul if a load is rejected, Rogers said, which results in higher trash fees.
Thankfully, this is not something Wyoming County has had a huge problem with due to the diligence of those working at the recycling center.
Making it a point to recycle eligible items can actually help residents save money.
“If you’re paying for garbage and you recycle, you’re saving a lot of money if you’re doing it the proper way too,” Rogers said.
It’s also better for the environment to reuse materials rather than making products from virgin materials.
“The landfills are filling up and that’s something our kids’ kids are going to see, where they’re going to have a hard time probably getting rid of their trash,” he said.
Drop off hours at the Wyoming County Recycling Center, located at 130 Tunkhannock Township Drive, are Monday through Friday 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
The recycling center is also hosting an electronics recycling event for Wyoming County residents and small businesses on Saturday, May 11 from 9 a.m. to noon.
At no cost, the center will take lead acid batteries, cell phones, desktop copiers, CPUs, fax machines, keyboards, laptop/desktop computers, microwaves, answering machines, modems, pagers, printers, radios/stereos, telephones and VCRs.
At a cost payable by cash or check, the center will take lithium batteries ($1), alkaline batteries ($2.50 per pound), floor copiers ($20), televisions ($35-$55), CRT monitor-tubes ($15), LCD flat computer monitors ($12), dehumidifiers ($25), air conditioners ($25), floor freezers ($30), refrigerators ($30), stoves/dishwashers ($20), washers/dryers ($20), electric hot water heaters ($20) and fluorescent bulbs ($2).
For more information about recycling in Wyoming County, call 570-836-0729 or visit wycopa.org.
What else can we do? Cook said it’s important to start with education.
“I think we need to embrace the science that tells us these are important issues and I think we need to start discussing the ethical implications of these actions,” he said. “It’s not just future generations, it’s impacting people today.”