by Ellie Matthews, Alexis Leianna Walsh —
Appropriate waste disposal is important for the overall health of the environment, people and animals. The Montgomery Regional Solid Waste Authority, MRSWA, continues to work towards educating the New River Valley community on proper waste disposal.
According to DoSomething.org, “The EPA estimates that 75 percent of the American waste stream is recyclable, but we only recycle about 30 percent of it.” DoSomething explains that it is time for individuals to take actions against careless and improper waste disposal.
Teresa Sweeney, MRSWA Education and Training Coordinator, stated, “Plastic bags are still a problem; People put things in the plastic bags that can end up in the trees and waterways because they easily blow away when trash vehicles are emptied.”
Sweeney works to educate businesses, schools, industries, the general public, etc., on how to recycle, setup recycling programs and develop proper waste disposal habits that are necessary for a healthy atmosphere. She explained that people often do not realize the effects their actions can have on the environment. She said that even the smallest changes—such as eliminating the use of plastic bags—could make the environment substantially healthier.
According to Healthfully, “properly disposing of waste is not just a personal responsibility; some kinds of waste, usually hazardous, must be properly disposed of according to law set forth by the Environmental Protection Agency.” Healthfully explains, “toxic waste can seep into the ground and contaminate water supplies, and sometimes cause widespread disease.”
Sophia Lee, an Undergraduate Research Assistant at Virginia Tech, works with Dr. Marc Edwards and his team on mitigating the Flint Michigan Water Crisis. Her lab explores chemical and microbial contaminants in water due to corrosion. Lee stated, “The longterm pollution of the Flint River, through runoff and treated/untreated waste dumping, made the water incredibly toxic.”
Lee explained that due to the high corrosion potential, caused by the harsh disinfectants and waste dumping, the water exposed the old lead pipes of the Michigan town, and contaminated the water with lead—poisoning Flint’s residents. She stated, “If this river had been cleaner to begin with, a large part of this problem could have been avoided.”
Lee also works as an intern for the Office of Sustainability at Virginia Tech. Through her internship she explained that she learned about the importance of carefully sorting what one puts into a recycling bin in order to avoid the whole batch ending up in a landfill.
She stated, “Recycling facilities are actually fairly selective, and if there is a certain level of food, moisture, or other materials that can’t be recycled, it makes the bin too difficult for the facility to sort.” She added, “Try your best to remove caps from bottles, dump and rinse anything filled with liquid or food, and check labels to make sure you sort your waste correctly.”