The end of the summer is bittersweet for many reasons. At Waste Management, it’s time to say goodbye and good luck to the WM Recycle Corps interns — 13 college students who spent the summer helping communities and businesses across Puget Sound reduce waste and “Recycle Right.”
In honor of the youthful energy and creative zest that this particular group of interns brought to the job, I’d like do something a little different with this month’s column. I’d like to invite the interns to share what they’re taking back to school, after a summer on the front lines of recycling.
Take it away, WM Recycle Corps!
Safety is a team effort.
As a cyclist, I’m now “eyes wide open” when it comes to safety and sharing the road with recycling trucks and other big rigs. When you’re on your bike, it’s easy to think everyone sees you and can anticipate your next move. Not so! Even with big mirrors, cameras, extensive training and the strict safety protocol that WM drivers follow, there are blind spots. Drivers can’t always see everything. The No. 1 tip I’m taking back to campus and to my fellow cyclists is simple: Stay a safe distance from trucks and never pull up alongside a truck.
Beware of the bag!
I always thought people in Redmond, where I grew up, were good at recycling. What I learned this summer is that a whole lot of people, even in Redmond, are confused about plastic bags. Plastic bags should never go in your curbside recycling cart because they wreak havoc at recycling facilities. They get tangled in sorting equipment and can shut a plant down for hours, adding delays and cost to our local recycling programs. Many grocery stores offer recycling specifically for plastic bags. Just return your bags to the store!
Clean and dry wins.
If I could share just one tip, it’s that recycling isn’t just about what you put in the cart — it’s also about the “how.” Recyclables need to be clean and dry before you drop them in the cart. Moisture and food residue can turn perfectly useful recyclables into garbage. No food, liquid or wet items, no matter what!
Recycling is for everyone, but it isn’t one-size-fits-all.
I spent the summer working with multi-family residences and businesses in multicultural communities. Coming from a bicultural and bilingual family, like many of the WM Recycle Corps interns, I embraced working with a diverse mix of people and cultures to get recycling information in the right languages to the right people, and to help set up recycling systems that are convenient and accessible for all. I’ve seen firsthand the importance of a multilingual and multicultural outreach team to help communities reduce waste and improve recycling. I’ve also been inspired by what unites us. No matter where we come from or what language we speak, caring for our planet is something we can do together.
Thank you, WM Recycle Corps 2018. We look forward to seeing how you will serve your communities and protect our planet in the years ahead. The world needs your creative thinking and spirited approach!