Reducing pollution through Plasticity

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The Dallas Examiner

The city of Dallas, specifically the Southern Dallas area, has encountered many environmental issues recently. In February, the Dallas Independent School District released a water report highlighting several schools with high levels of copper and lead in the water.

These schools included: Billy Earl Dade Middle School, James Madison High School, Lincoln High School, Skyline High School, Woodrow Wilson High School, Wilmer-Hutchins High School and Middle School, D.A. Hulcy STEAM Middle School, Preston Hollow Elementary and N.W. Harllee Early Childhood Center.

In addition to water contamination, some school buildings are in poor condition and filled with pollutants such as mold. Earlier this year, Sarah Zumwalt Middle School students were relocated to A. Maceo Smith New Tech High School due to mold overgrowth in classrooms.

With life-threatening events affecting children’s health, it has become more important for local residents to take action against pollution issues and clean up the area. Recycling could be that step in the right direction.

During the Earth Day Texas festival, the Plasticity Forum came to the city for the first time and provided a great deal of information that could solve current environmental issues and save lives.

“This impacts billions of people everyday,” said Douglas Woodring, Plasticity Forum founder. “It’s not like climate change that might come tomorrow in a big storm. It’s impacting water quality for people today. Health issues and transportation problems today.”

Many people don’t see the reasonable value in something as simple as a water bottle, according to Woodring.

“The trick with plastic is that it does not easily go away,” he said. “It’s built to be durable and lightweight, and that’s why it makes such a good product. [However], at the same time, that’s why it causes a challenge. It’s lightweight, so people don’t want to pick it up because it is not valuable enough for them to go make some money from turning it in.”

Currently, Texas has a 19 percent recycling rate, and Dallas is ranked as the 11th most polluted city in America by a State of The Air 2016 report, which results in multiple health risks such as water contamination, illnesses and increased ozone levels.

Moreover, on a wider scale, the Trump administration is close to making a decision on whether to withdraw from the Paris Agreement on climate change, which would bring the problem to an end.

The quality of life weighs heavily in recycling plastic. The value of plastic lies within its afterlife – the material after it is first used. When it is recycled, the resource can be used as gasoline and energy for communities throughout the nation, according to Woodring.

“Afterlife, we have to get it back,” he said. “If we don’t get it back, it does damage to our water and to our cities.”

Recycling can provide many benefits to communities nationwide.

“If you recycle plastic, roughly you save 70 to 90 percent of energy, so recycling plastic uses much less energy than emerging plastic coming out of the ground,” the Plasticity founder said.

Also, recycling creates more jobs in the community where citizens can get paid and keep neighborhoods clean at the same time.

“It is proven that [the] recycling industry creates anywhere from 10 to 20 more jobs in the city than landfilling does,” Woodring said. “With landfilling, it’s just a truck backing up into an open lot, but with recycling, you need people to pick it up, recycle it, clean it up, purify it, and make it into a new product.”

However, there are many obvious challenges in turning plastic into fuel from its initial process to actually obtaining the material for fuel consumption.

“The problem with plastic isn’t going away. It’s increasing by 4 percent,” said Stuart Clark, managing director of FOY Group, a company specializing in converting non-recyclable plastics into usable products. “One of the things we have to look at generally is segregating the plastics of the outsets. The problem with managing the community is the waste gets bumped together. It is possible to separate the waste, but that’s not universally done. So, the key is to separate that waste so it can be turned back into ready fuel.”

Manual recycling also struggles to compete with landfilling – an easier way of disposing trash yet hazardous process that adds to air pollution.

“One of the biggest challenges to recycling is the hole in the ground,” Woodring said. “It’s much cheaper to drive over the hole in the ground, which is the landfill we create, than to fund waste. The cost of them re-sorting that is too high. That’s why the U.S. exports a lot of its waste.”

The cost of overall environmental quality places a huge burden on residents that they may be unaware of.

“The cost to clean up, fix water quality problems, tourism and general degradation of that living environment is cost we pay as consumers and as a community for not having good waste processing,” Woodring explained. “When a company says ‘That cost too much to make it,’ they’re simply putting the cost on us – the taxpayer – to be the one’s who have to fix the problem after that gets out there. Those [costs] are not externalized.”

To fix this problem locally, the Plasticity founder advised that people challenge corporate organizations in the area to get involved.

“If you had a better deposits of locations or a reward system built in where people bring that material which is sorted, more pure and easier to use to come to that location to get that reward to some benefits and the corporate gets some benefit, everyone is winning in that scenario, and the local community is getting a cleaner environment,” Woodring said. “The local government may not have the money or the capacity to send the trucks around and do the proper recycling the best way. You can get corporates on board with that to be part of that community engagement.”

On a neighborhood level, local residents may begin recycling by calling the city for a personal recycle bin or visiting recycling drop-off locations at parks, schools and centers such as Kiest Park, Exline Recreation Center, South Oak Cliff High School and Highland Hills United Methodist Church.

Only paper, cardboard and boxboard, cartons, metal cans, glass and plastic containers can be recycled. Plastic bags and films can be taken to your local stores for recycling, and metal hangers can be taken to your local laundromat.

Shredded papers should be composted, and items such as furniture, electronics, light bulbs and hazardous waste may be dropped off at a local donation center, landfill, the Dallas Home Chemical Collection Center or at a transfer station such as the Southwest Transfer Station, located at 4610 S. Westmoreland Road.

For information on recycling and drop-off locations, visit http://www.dallascityhall.com.

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