Do you realize that our poor planet is in danger of being smothered beneath piles of garbage?
Each year an average Canadian throws away almost one tonne of stuff. That's a scary mound of junk! In fact, household garbage makes up more than 50 percent of all solid waste collected in Canada.
You can do something about reducing that pile. The next time you're about to drop a sheet of paper or a tin can into the wastepaper basket, for example, why not think about dropping it in a recycling bin instead? Recycling things like paper, glass and tin makes an amazing difference for wildlife. There are lots of good reasons why you should make this special effort.
- Recycling products like paper and aluminum cans conserves our forest and mineral resources. In other words, thanks to recycling, fewer trees will be cut to produce paper, and less ore will be mined to manufacture metal. That means less wildlife habitat will be disturbed by forestry and mining activities.
- Recycling helps to reduce pollution caused by manufacturing industries. Pulp and paper plants, ore smelters and other industrial complexes contaminate the air that all living things breathe, and they often dump toxic wastes into water. Polluted water spells a poisonous fate for fish and other wildlife. Chemicals, minerals, solid matter and metal salts can wipe out water-loving creatures.
- Recycling conserves energy used in manufacturing. It takes less energy to recycle paper than it does to make it from trees, for example. Less demand for energy means less pressure on hydro-electric companies to develop new sites for power plants in wildlife areas and to flood and with water from dams. Changes in water quality and quantity destroy riparian vegetation and reduce the number of spawning areas for fish and nesting sites for some birds. Such changes also contribute to habitat loss for certain fish.
- Recycling reduces the need for more landfill that could pollute land and nearby rivers, streams, lakes and ground water.
- Recycling reduces hazardous litter — like plastic — which can injure or kill wildlife when it eats it or becomes entangled in it.
A Tree Saved, a Forest Earned
Don't just wait for industry to find more environmentally friendly ways to produce bottles and bags and the other articles we use so often. Take a positive step for wildlife now. Recycle that piece of paper or that pop can. Reuse your lunch bag. You can make a difference.
If your community doesn't have a recycling programme, why not ask your municipal council to start one? If one exists, encourage your school to dive right in! Recycling one tonne of paper saves about 20 trees. If your community could collect about 9,000 tonnes of paper a year, that would mean 180,000 trees or 346 hectares of forest habitat for wildlife wouldn't have to be touched!
Let's say the newspapers you helped recycle were reprocessed into building insulation. You'd have done an awful lot for our environment:
- Trees would have been conserved.
- Wildlife habitat would have remained intact.
- Land would have been saved because the paper had been recycled instead of being sent to the dump.
- Energy would have been conserved at the manufacturing plant because less would have been needed to make the insulation from recycled material.
- Energy would also be conserved in the home where the insulation was installed.
- The air would be cleaner. Less pollution would be produced because of the reduction in energy needs, both in the home and at the manufacturing plant.
So, you see, recycling can take us far along the road to keeping our wildlife, ourselves and our planet healthy.
Make a Garbage Stew
Why not give your schoolyard ecology centre some goodies to help it grow strong and healthy?
Put some of your refuse to good use by making a simple compost heap — sort of a garbage stew. It's a great way to use organic waste like grass clippings, weeds or non-greasy food scraps from your lunches. Just think of all those fruit and vegetable leftovers, bread crusts, eggshells and other tidbits you might not want to eat!
A compost pile makes super fertilizer for trees, your wildlife gardens, or anything that grows. You will be doing your ecology centre a big favour by recycling valuable nutrients through the soil.
A compost pile helps your area in other ways. Fewer plastic bags will be used to hold trash. Composting prolongs the life of landfill sites, and cuts back on landfill pollution.
A Compost Recipe
Here's how you do it. In a shady, protected area, construct a chicken wire or snow fence enclosure big enough to hold a pile about 1.2 metre long, 1.2 metre wide and 1.2 metre high. It can be very simple — just join the ends of the chicken wire or snow fence to make a circle.
Start your heap with a base of branches for ventilation. Next, add a seven-centimetre layer of grass clippings, leaves, weeds and rood scraps (no meat, please). Lunch leftovers could be collected in small, covered pails and added to your compost heap.
Next, cover that with a two-centimetre layer of dry manure or soil. You could add two centimetres of lime to speed up the decaying process.
Keep repeating this series of layers until your pile is just over one metre deep. Turn the pile about once a month with a pitchfork, and keep it moist in dry spells. The compost should feel like a damp, not soggy, sponge. You will notice it sinks as it decomposes or rots. Within about nine months, your compost heap is ready to be dug into the schoolyard soil.
A Tip for Council
The City of Ottawa makes compost from leaves collected on city streets!
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