Truly eye opening

Mounds of recyclables at the SIMS Facility in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, NY

Environmental concerns have been an interest of mine for quite a while and have influenced my lifestyle greatly. Living in a city like NY can be overwhelming when thinking of consumerism and waste, but it can also be quite invigorating, as there are many opportunities to engage with other people with similar environmental concerns. Big cities also offer the ability to share resources like public transportation, reducing our individual energy consumption and giving us the chance to share resources.

This is a list of what I currently do to curb my impact:

  • I carry a water bottle everywhere I go, religiously.
  • I am a member of the Park Slope Food Coop, which gives me access to organic and local food at an affordable price.
  • I commuted to work by bicycle 90% of the time in the last 5 years, most of my grocery shopping is also done by bike.
  • I compost all my food waste at home (all organic material), and school (only veggies)
  • I am diligent about recycling in my household
  • I avoid take out or delivery because of the excessive use of one time use plastics
  • I often carry a cloth bag when I go shopping, and I do my best to refuse unnecessary packaging

Similar to NY, visiting the SIMS facility in Sunset Park was overwhelming and invigorating at the same time. The fact that they are able to classify and sell most of the materials they receive is really impressive and it re-affirms the importance of following the rules and spreading the word about of recycling our material waste properly. It was eye opening to hear that half of the household materials that should be recycled end up in the regular trash (directly to the landfill!) and will never have a chance to be re-introduced into our material systems. Educating the public seems to be paramount, and I believe it can start by each of us educating one person and asking them to educate someone else.

This is a list of things that we should all re-enforce with our friends and family:

  • Bio plastics are only compostable in specialized facilities, which don’t yet exist in NY Regular plastic cutlery, on the other hand, is recyclable, as long as it is thrown in the recycling bin, it doesn’t have to be perfectly clean, just a quick rinse is good.
  • Any metal can go into the recycling bin, this includes used aluminum foil, ferrous (steel) and nonferrous metals (brass, bronze, copper)
  • Cartons are recyclable, and they must go in the bin with plastics and metal, not in the paper bin.
  • Paper should stay dry and clean, pizza boxes (even with a little grease) are still okay to recycle along with the clean paper
  • Any plastics that go in the trash should be lightly rinsed, not perfectly clean. It’s okay for some slightly dirty plastic to go into the recycling bin, that better than throwing it in the trash.
  • Compost when possible, find the closest farmer’s market to you, and drop off your food scraps.

Lastly, I think everyone in NY should make it a point to visit SIMS facility, it is truly eye opening and really impressive. They currently process 1,000 tons of material every day, and have the capacity to do more, as long as we all commit to recycling our waste properly.
Thank you Alisha and Rebecca for organizing this field trip.

I leave you with a short video of the 2 miles of conveyor belts in their facility:

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