Recycling Done Right–and Beyond!

by Nancy Upham

Do you find your head spinning trying to figure out what is going on with recycling these days? What can you recycle? Where can you recycle it? And where does it go once you have put it in a blue can or dropped it off at a recycling center? You are definitely not alone!

Recently a group of about 10 members of the local Climate Action Group INYO350 decided to try to find out the what, where, and how of recycling in Inyo County. It has taken several months of investigation, but now, for Earth Day, they are ready to share what they have uncovered and learned.

First and foremost, you might ask: after all these years–decades actually–of recycling, why is it so hard to navigate the ins and outs of local recycling? The answer is simply that the world of recycling, around the globe, is changing on a daily basis right now.

A short history of recycling and waste management reveals that before the 20th century there was no need to recycle things, because people avoided waste due to economic needs. They fixed things that were broken, and they found ways to give items a second life once their original purpose was complete. In the 1960s, the phrase “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” was introduced to address the challenge of consumer waste and to limit the amount of material going to landfills and incinerators. China has gladly purchased our recyclables for more than 20 years to fuel its manufacturing growth. But in January of 2018, that all changed. Due to massive amounts of contamination in the recycled material that countries were sending to China, they decided to refuse the incoming recycled material and return them to the country of origin. Just like that, the international market for recycled goods virtually dried up, and this has led us to an international crisis of waste management. The problems surrounding this are compounded, since we are a culture addicted to consumables, many of which are single-use plastic items.

To better understand this issue, we first need to define contamination in relation to the world of recycling. Contamination occurs when garbage, food waste or the wrong recyclables are put into recycling carts, bins or containers. When contamination occurs, all that was intended to be recycled ends up in our landfills.

Recycling Done Right

Good intentions are wasted when the wrong materials are put into recycling carts, bins and containers.  “Wishful Recyclers” put almost everything in recycling bins hoping that someone will sort out what is appropriate and what is not. Don’t just guess! It is best to know what you are doing, so you don’t add to the contamination of recyclables and run the risk of them being rejected. If you go to INYO350’s website and click the Recycling tab you can access a grid that lists all of the locations in Inyo County where things can be recycled and what can be recycled where. There is also a brochure produced in cooperation with Inyo County that you can print out and post on your fridge. When in doubt, check it out with your recycling agent, such as Inyo County Solid Waste Management or Bishop Waste. The brochures will be available on Earth Day at the INYO350 booth and after that at the Inyo County Offices at 163 May Street in Bishop.

Here is a short list of items that are not currently recyclable, and that should appropriately be put into the trash to go to the landfill.

  • plastic bags and film wrap packaging
  • “compostable” plastics (not recyclable here)
  • plastic plates, utensils, and straws
  • take-out coffee cups (they have plastic liners)
  • chip bags
  • small plastic toys
  • plastics with the numbers 3-7 on the bottom
  • aluminum foil
  • solid Styrofoam

Once you have determined that the plastic, cardboard or glass you are going to recycle is appropriate, it is very important that all food residue be removed from the item to be recycled. Clean it and dry itbefore placing it in a recycling cart, bin or container, therefore avoiding contamination of the entire container.

Reduce – Reuse – Repair – Repurpose – Recycle

Today, with markets for recyclables being so volatile and unpredictable, it is important for each of us to really examine our consuming habits and think about our purchases, including how items are packaged.

Think about how you personally can reduce what you are buying that results in waste. Buy in bulk with a minimum of packaging. Carry a refillable water bottle, coffee cup and drinking glass with a reusable straw. Really think about the single-use plastics that most of us use without even giving it a second thought, such as plastic straws, plastic utensils and take-out coffee cups, all of which end up in our landfills. With a little pre-planning you can figure out how to use reuse items rather than throwing away single-use items. Look around you and notice just how much waste really could be avoided.

Then think about items you could repair or repurpose rather than just disposing of them in favor of something brand new. It’s a new way of thinking for us, but this critical way of thinking may just be part of the really big-picture solution that we need to find—and soon! By reducing the amount that we purchase, we are reducing the number of new items that need to be manufactured, thus reducing the fossil fuels necessary for the production process. At the same time, we’ll have less waste that needs to be hauled and dealt with. When you can, purchase items made from recycled materials. Reducing and reusing are critical life-style changes that we can all make. Recycling is a part of the solution, but it is not the whole answer. Think about how you can be a part of the solution and take a pledge this Earth Day to be a part of that solution!

For much more information on recycling and how we can change the way we consume and dispose of our waste, please visit an



Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act

At last week’s general meeting, Mono350’s Janet Carle gave us a bit of information on H.R. 763. The Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act has been introduced into the US House of Representatives with bipartisan sponsorship. I’m sharing the below message from Don Condon, president of the Eastern Sierra Electric Vehicle Association and a member of the Citizens’ Climate Lobby.

“There has been a lot of press lately about the New Green Deal. Just to be clear, it is only a resolution and a statement about how we should address climate change and wage inequity. In concept it is great, but is unlikely to ever become legislation. Its main value is to rally progressives for a noble cause. With great attention being paid to a problem which most voters agree needs to be addressed an actual bill was introduced in the House last month. The Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act (H.R. 763) is bipartisan and has supporters on both sides of the aisle. This bill has a number of features which recommend it. For one, it can gain support from both Democrats and Republicans because it is revenue neutral. The bill will provide dividends to those who will be the most impacted and will aggressively reduce our carbon emissions. We now know we only have 12 years to really get to work on this problem. Given the fires, hurricanes, droughts, and other events we read about and experience now, we can no longer say, “I am not a scientist” or proclaim that this is not human-caused.  We all now know the facts.  Here is a link to the bill’s site
I encourage everyone to call their members of Congress and ask them to sponsor or support this bill.  Also consider joining the Citizens Climate Lobby, whose efforts have largely made this bill possible. Fee and Dividend is the most effective way to reduce our emissions and is supported by a majority of economists.
Please take a moment to act and call or write your Congressional representative. The time to act is now.”

Safer Sunscreens and More

The snowiest February in history is coming to a close, so it may seem an odd time to talk about sunscreen, but in the sunny Eastern Sierra we don’t wait for summer to slather it on! It turns out that the ingredients in the sunscreen products many of us are using on a daily basis pose risks for us and other creatures. Fortunately, there are organizations like the Environmental Working Group to help us make decisions that are healthy for both us and the environment. “EWG’s 2018 Guide to Sunscreens” is just one of many consumer guides you can peruse and download at their website.

Toilet paper is in the news this week, too! Go to the Natural Resources Defense Council’s blog post of February 20 to read about “The Issue with Tissue.” I was shocked to learn that much of the pulp for our toilet paper comes from centuries-old trees in the boreal forests of Canada. You can read the blog post, but it pays to scroll down a bit and click on the link to the actual report, which has a much more detailed scorecard of the available brands (it’s on page six of the PDF). For instance, in an abbreviated report card I saw online, Trader Joe’s gets an “A” grade, but it turns out that’s only for the basic TJ TP. Their “super soft” TP gets a barely-passing “D.” As a bonus, the original report has report cards for facial tissue and paper towels as well.

Low-Income gear library in Pauahuunadü (Owens Valley) and local bolt removal project

Jolie Varela and other members of the community are working to remove climbing bolts from the local Piaute monument Winnedumah in recognition of its cultural significance. The process is underway, but in need of support. Please give your assistance in the protection of this sacred place by sending letters expressing support to the address below. or to IWH  527 N.  Third St.  Unit B, Bishop CA 93514

Also, check out the awesome work being done to support outdoor activities for all; bellow is a message from Jolie and the Indigenous Woman’s Hike about the wonderful gear library they are sponsoring here in Bishop.

“We are currently in the process of creating an outdoor gear library to provide equipment and education to all low-income families and individuals throughout Payahuunadü. We will also provide access to organizations traveling to Payahuunadü to recreate on our homelands. We are currently raising funds primarily through donations from our supporters. Please consider contributing to help us fulfill our vision to make outdoor recreation accessible to all!”

Please help them by donating funds or gear to the same address as above, any questions can also be sent to Jolie at the aforementioned email address.