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Don’t let virus infect spirit of Earth Day

A 15-month public health crisis and a decades-long environmental challenge intersect today as more than 1 billion people across the globe actively mark Earth Day 2021.

For the second consecutive year, the insipid COVID-19 pandemic has put a damper on this annual green-letter day to mobilize for the preservation of this planet’s finite natural resources.

Indeed, the pandemic has socked a double whammy on the spirit of the world’s largest secular hands-on holiday.

First, as more and more of us have been sheltering in place, household waste has been piling up at alarming rates and polluting increasingly overtaxed landfills. Today, the average American produces nearly 5 pounds of trash per day, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Second, because of restrictions on large-group gatherings, many of the collective-action events such as huge rallies and mass community cleanups have been trashed this Earth Day. Instead, most official Earth Day events — from the Mahoning Valley to Mumbai, India — are taking place in the virtual universe this year.

Those realities, however, need not drain Earth Day of its purpose or its mission. Instead, they should motivate individuals and families even more to find creative and constructive ways to enrich and cleanse Mother Earth.

They can do so easily enough by practicing in earnest any and all of the three Rs of environmental protection — reduce, reuse and recycle.

All of us can pledge to reduce our reliance on one-use products that collectively contribute to the hundreds of millions of pounds of trash Americans pile up each year.

Consider, for example, cutting plastics and throwaway products as much as possible from everyday routines. The Natural Resources Defense Council recommends we choose a toothbrush with a replaceable head, use a reusable metal razor with a replaceable, recyclable head instead of disposable razors, 2 billion of which are tossed to the trash heap yearly in America.

As for the Reusing chapter of the 3 Rs primer, carry refillable water bottles and coffee mugs, get stainless steel or other reusable straws and promote the use of second-hand and hand-me-down clothes.

Recycling, the third R of the equation for responsible stewardship of the environment, is perhaps most critical. Recycling, after all, overflows with benefits. Well-managed and responsible programs: Reduce the amount of waste sent to landfills and incinerators; conserve natural resources such as timber, water and minerals; and lessen pollution by cutting the need to exhaust our limited supply of natural resources needlessly.

Clearly, everyday recycling must be strengthened. At a time when the industry is facing numerous challenges, we can ill afford to allow it to die a slow and graceless death. But even before the pandemic, recycling programs across this nation had endured downsizing and downright dumping in some communities.

Growing proportions of contaminated recyclable items coupled with skyrocketing costs for processing used paper, plastic and glass explain this disturbing trend of shrinkage in the recycling rate.

In the final analysis, however, the ultimate responsibility for ensuring useless materials can be made useful again rests in the hands of the beholder.

Instead of tossing that glass bottle into the same grimy bin as plastic bags and condiment-stained sandwich wrappers, take the time needed to properly sort and manage all recyclables. Multiplied millions of times over, such thoughtful disposal decisions can make a difference in healing the ailing recycling industry and, more importantly, in preserving this nation’s finite warehouse of natural resources.

For our part, The Tribune Chronicle is hosting its annual Earth Day recycling collection 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. today in the rear parking lot of our building at the corner of Vine Avenue SE and South Street SE, Warren.

No on-site shredding service will be available, but items still can be brought for shredding later. Residents may bring their paper products to the parking lot, where there will be a drive-through drop-off.

Recyclable paper products that will be accepted are newspapers, junk mail, envelopes, magazines, office paper, paper bags, encyclopedias, hard-cover books, paperback books, telephone books and thick manuals.

With so many opportunities to contribute to making a difference in preservation of a clean and pure environment, resolve this Earth Day to adopt the principles of the 3 Rs — reduce, reuse and recycle — into your routines today and every day.

editorial@tribtoday.com

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