It was a beautiful, sunny day to invest in our planet this past Earth Day, April 22.
Over a hundred Urbana neighbors came together throughout the day to learn about woodland wildflowers, spruce up the VOU pollinator garden, listen to a gardening story, discover local sustainable organizations, make a natural craft and pick up trash.
First VOU Trash Olympics
The day culminated with the Trash Olympics medal ceremony. Sixteen teams competed and weighed-in their collections. Combined they picked up 43 contractor-sized bags’ worth of trash and other oversize items like tires and plastic pots for a grand total of 771.9 pounds.
Everyone who participated deserves a big round of applause! (Please see the Special Thanks at the end of the blog for a shout out for all involved).
Yet, why is so much of this trash here in the first place and how can we prevent it from accumulating again?
As Dhruthik proclaims in his winning entry for the Green Team Urbana poster contest, we need to "let every day be earth day". Read on to find out ways and resources to reduce the impact that waste has on our environment and "let the oceans be happy."
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
We had a lot of fun with the Trash Olympics, but trash is no joke. Long gone are the days when you could offload an oversize item directly into our county landfill and either marvel or cringe at the scale. I did that with a very old couch once and felt very, very small. Because of a lack of space, 96% of the waste generated in Frederick County is now trucked out to Pennsylvania for disposal, adding to the wastestream's costs and carbon emissions.
But there is still a lot happening at our Landfill and Recycling Center off of Reich's Ford Road. That's where Matt Seubert and I ended up this past week, in order to drop off the items from the Trash Olympics that the trash collector wouldn't take or that could be recycled. If you have never been, it's worth a trip there to check it out - it's just a short and rather scenic 10 minute drive from Urbana. You can see first-hand what recycling they take, purchase mulch and compost, and even take classes. A few years ago, I attended a compost seminar that included a tour of the facility.
Perhaps if we all witness where our waste ends up, we will generate less of it.
As Alexander reminds us in the poster he created for Earth Day, we need to "reduce, reuse & recycle."
Most of what was collected during the trash competition was plastic – big pieces and small pieces, and everything in between. It’s light enough to hitch a free ride on the first bit of wind, and it’s just about everywhere in our modern, convenient culture.
Please consider ways to reduce plastic use. You likely already have some reusable shopping bags, but what about ditching the ziplocs for reusable sandwich bags and buying in bulk. Some of the recent reporting by Intercept provides reasons to skip plastic water bottles altogether.
It’s hard to avoid all plastic - so when you do end up with it - please recycle what you can. Bread bags, cereal liners and plastic shipping materials can be dropped off at collection bins at many grocery stores, including our neighborhood Giant (but they CANNOT go in our blue bins at home).
And on recycling days - especially the windy ones - tape the lid of your blue bin.
Most metal can be recycled for free, which is what we did with this huge rusty pole Hayley found. There is a separate Recycling Road entrance next to the landfill. If you drive around the loop, you will see where oils, lead acid batteries, old refrigerators, hard plastics and other items can be dropped off. Matt told me he sometimes diverts his neighbors’ trash like old plastic toys to the recycling center. Be like Matt! Let a neighbor know there are better options than the trash heap. Here’s a complete list of what the Recycling Center accepts.
Each county household can take up to 5 tires per year and pay the regular trash disposal fee charged by pound ($0.77 per 20 pounds). Matt and I dropped off the 5 tires that were collected for the Olympics (a couple of them were huge), and the bill was only $10. Soon, the state will be offering a county-wide drop off likely for free. Keep track of the Division of Solid Waste and Recycling events page for more information. It's not a lot of fun yanking these tires out of creeks, rolling them up and down hills, and getting all covered in goo, though we do admit to a few laughs.
Our forests and its creatures are already battling against over development, invasive plants, and a changing climate. Please don’t add hazardous waste to the mix. On May 21, there will be a Hazardous Waste Drop off event at Nymeo Field where you can take old spray paint, pesticides, fluorescent light bulbs and more.
This fire extinguisher was found during our recent cleanup and the trash collectors wouldn't take it. After just a few minutes of research and calls, we discovered that most consumer extinguishers can be discharged outside, the powders emptied in the trash and then the canister recycled at the landfill with the other metals.
And for me, no visit to the landfill is complete without picking up some Revive compost. At $15 per ton, it’s quite the bargain. I had a few tubs to fill – it cost me $0.80. If you want to see first-hand what our yard waste turns into, check out the mulch and compost at the top of the hill at the landfill next to where you can drop off your large tree limbs and other yard waste that doesn't fit so easily in a large brown bag. Despite the fact that our neighborhood offers weekly yard waste pickup on Wednesdays, we found a lot of items disposed of in the forests, including plastic pots filled with last season’s flowers, grass clippings and old mulch.
If you'd like to visit the Landfill and Recycling Center, see the details below.
9031 Reichs Ford Road in Frederick, MD, 21704
Two entrances Recycling/landfill site hours: 7 am - 4:30 pm Monday through Saturday Phone: 301-600-2960 Email: recycle@FrederickCountyMD.gov Join their Facebook community to ask questions, see event listings, and get helpful recycling tips: www.Facebook.com/FrederickRecycles
What can be recycled at the Recycling Center: https://www.frederickcountymd.gov/3955/Drop-Off-Center-for-Recycling-Various-Ma
Disposal and Recycling Events:
If you are interested in learning more about recycling, including composting, email: email@example.com or call 301-600-7405. They offer adult-level programs. I have attended a composting workshop at their facility, which included an interesting tour of the grounds and samples of various compost bins.
Entire books have been written on the subject of how to reduce waste, like Secondhand by Adam Minter, which FURL recently recommended. Or, check out 101 Ways to Go Zero Waste by Kathryn Kellogg. Check out the above link for all of FURL's recent recommendations.
This is a great effort started by a young, enterprising student. The Urbana group collects old batteries most weekends and is organized mostly by students. If you are interested in being part of the team, contact Dr. Amit Kumar at firstname.lastname@example.org.
It took a lot of collaboration to make Earth Day in Urbana a success. Thank you to the VOU Social Committee for sponsoring the Trash Olympics and Amit Kumar for his partnership. Meghnad Konai helped us with some of the judging for the additional awards. Jocelyn, Jacob and Aimee in the VOU office helped us with many details. Thank you to the amazing Green Team leaders and volunteers! Scott Murphy was our MC; Elle Murphy selected a playlist; Shea Murphy prepared trash kits and made the salt-dough medals. Leela Gupta prepared an amazing natural craft; Will Rothery and Eldo Daniel weighed all the trash; Frederick Fresh Online, Friends of the Urbana Regional Library, and Recycle My Battery tabled at the mini-environmental fair. Katie Esposito collected crayons to recycle. Kim Leahy lead the garden cleanup, story time at the Urbana Library and the weigh-in; Sangeeta Gupta organized the Earth Day Poster contest and had help from judges Matthew Williams, Dhanya Williams, Raj Gupta and Kim Leahy. The Urbana Regional Library, Art & Soul, and Pump & Rye are displaying the posters. Matt Seubert and I lead a wildflower walk, made a trip to the Landfill and Recycling Center, and picked up a fair amount of trash ourselves. The idea for the Trash Olympics was based off of Pittsburgh's event. And, last but not least, thank you to those who helped us spruce up the garden and to our teams who risked getting dirty and caught in brambles to clean our forests and other areas: Duplantier-Zheng Family, Team Battery, Eco Friendz, Rakhi Family, Garmon Family, Gupta Family, Kendall Family, Tregoning Family, Copenhaver Family, Esposito Family, Harris Street Sweepers, Boxwood Villas, Money Monkeys, Chen Family, Riedel Family and a few unnamed others.