By Maximo DeCastro Blake, Orange Environment’s Recycling Coordinator

Most of us enjoy looking out over extended vistas. We go to great lengths to take in the view from the beach, from mountain tops, from high buildings, etc. Being able to see long distances gives us a feeling of safety and relaxation. Anthropologists theorize that this almost universal feeling has been passed down to us from our distant ancestors. When they were prey and they could best see and avoid danger, when they could see it when it was far off. Now that we are civilized we should also be able to call upon this instinctual awareness and be able to recognize our current set of approaching dangers and do what is necessary to avoid them.

Many of today’s dangers come in the form of toxins in our air, water, and food that are hard to detect but given evidence by the growing proportions of persons with respiratory, skin and internal problems attributable to toxins. These are the new dangers that are stalking us like predators. Like predators of old, these new predator threats first target the weak and the young. A continually larger proportion of the elderly and children are suffering from a growing variety of breathing problems and system irritants. Our health and very survival depends on understanding these dangers and working toward a future where we are exposed to fewer toxins.

To survive we must defend ourselves from toxic predators. Any potential source of these toxins must be identified and eliminated. We have been pretty good at identifying old sources. A big step was taken locally when we eliminated landfills and incinerators, from the list of sources negatively affecting our health. At the same time we have been working toward recycling more of our residential and municipal garbage so that it is not taken to less enlightened areas outside of our control where it will be land-filled or incinerated. No matter how far away these outmoded garbage handling processes are operating, they will eventually affect us as well. The more we recycle, the less chance there will be that private industry or politicians will revert back to old ways of handling our garbage. We must also be diligent to make sure no new sources of toxins are developed in our local areas, so that we are working toward an ever cleaner environment and not reversing the path we have been on for many years.

A local example is the continual quest for a solution to the disposal of our residential/municipal garbage. Any solutions being considered should be evaluated in terms of local health effects. Otherwise the human cost of the proposed “solution” could be too high. Any process that uses the waste for fuel, including the proposed “gasification plant” currently being fast tracked in Montgomery- Maybrook, NY (Taylor Gasification Plant) will add toxins to our environment. The alternative of recycling the major portion of our garbage produces far less toxins than even the current process of trucking the waste out of the county to be land-filled or incinerated elsewhere. It is imperative that we redirect our local efforts in that direction.

In any case, burning, burying or destroying garbage is a waste of valuable materials that are in demand by local businesses. For example the paper that makes up a high proportion of the waste stream can be recycled into new paper. The list of materials that can be reused or reprocessed is ever growing. Even the most putrid of food wastes can be composted into valuable soil. By recycling we transform these sources of toxic predators to our benefit as we transformed the wolves that pursued us into man’s best friend. Think about recycling as a way of domesticating our garbage.