Columbia residents recycle half as much as national average
COLUMBIA - Residents of Columbia recycle at half the rate of the national average, at just 17 percent.
This has caused the Volunteer Specialist for the City of Columbia, Jody Cook, to take action by enlisting volunteers to join as recycling ambassadors for the city.
"We have a goal in Columbia to bring that up to 34 percent, which is the national average for municipalities, but we have a lot of work to do and the recycling ambassadors can make a big difference," Cook said.
The city currently has 23 active ambassadors, Cook said. They hope to teach the public about recycling.
"It's designed to educate volunteers about Columbia's recycling programs, proper recycling, techniques of recycling, alternatives for recycling items that the city of Columbia doesn't take, and in turn those recycling ambassadors go out and share their knowledge with others in hopes to bring up the recycling rate in Columbia," Cook said.
For Earl Dunn, a future recycling ambassador, the option seemed clear.
"I just feel like it's very easy and, if it helps our planet, I don't see why everybody wouldn't do it," Dunn said.
However, there are a few steps to recycling that may not be obvious, for instance, preparing bottles.
Cook said, "You need to take the cap off and rinse it lightly and then put the cap back on. The thing with the plastic caps is that they are recyclable, but they're small and they'll fall through the machines, they'll fall through everything if they're not contained on the bottle."
Another big problem, she said, is contamination. People need to make sure to empty the contents of metal cans, plastic containers or glass bottles before recycling them. Otherwise, it diminishes the value of the recyclables.
Still, Cook said the option to recycle may be easier than people think.
"Recycling in general is that we all have a personal responsibility," she said. "We really do, and everybody needs to start understanding that and just like simple things like looking around. So many times there is a recycling bin right next to the trash can, and if you look in there, the trash can is full of recyclables."