Every Nov. 15, we celebrate America Recycles Day, a nationally recognized initiative set forth by our mother affiliate, Keep America Beautiful, to promote and celebrate recycling in the United States. Last year, the wonderful citizens of the Yankton area donated THOUSANDS of pounds of denim. During our month-long drive last year, our office was quickly overcome with bursting bags of blue jeans from every walk of life. Each piece of denim donated was sorted through and disposed of according to its condition, with some of it being recycled back into our community. Much of the denim was packaged and shipped out as part of the Blue Jeans Go Green initiative, which turns old denim into housing insulation. We were very pleased with our drive last year, and grateful to our drop-off locations and all those who donated.  

This year’s effort is focused on the Hefty®EnergyBag® Program which targets hard-to-recycle materials. There is a wide variety of items that find their way into our recycling bins and can complicate recycling efforts. While the City of Yankton’s Single Stream recycling helps us properly dispose of many items, plastic bags are no longer allowed in the red bins. Worldwide, 300 million tons of plastic is produced each year. Half of that production is single-use items. The greatest strides towards sustainability can be made by reducing the amount of single-use plastics we consume. By and large, the biggest offender are single use plastic bags. They pollute our rivers and lakes, strain waste management and kill off wildlife. But most upsetting is the fact that they never decay. Instead, the plastic breaks into smaller and small pieces until it exists as tiny pieces of microplastics typically smaller than 5mm in size. And before you think, “out of sight, out of mind,” ask yourself how comforted you are to hear that microplastics have already been detected in the deepest parts of the oceans and in remote mountain ranges. There’s quite a bit to say about microplastics and I would not be the first or the last to tell you they are bad news. But hey, who am I and why should you believe me? I will leave you to do your own research on whether microplastics are a problem when humans breathe or ingest them. Just be sure to read peer-reviewed scientific efforts; I found it useful to narrow the search by using keywords like infertility, cancer, or hormonal imbalance.

I’ll wait for a moment here while you do that research...

Whoa! Pretty scary, right?! I bet you are wondering what you can do to make a difference.

Luckily for you (and us all), KYB is asking for all those single-use plastic bags you have accumulated this year. We all have a stash of them somewhere. Maybe underneath the sink or in the pantry. They are just waiting to jump back into the circular plastic economy, and they can do so at the drop off receptacles we have at Explorers Credit Union and Kopetzky’s Ace Hardware until November 14. But after you do that, don’t be too quick to pat yourself on the back and resume your everyday humdrum life. Sustainability is found through new habits and lasting change. There are many habits we all could embrace. Learn a new skill in repairing items you otherwise would throw out. Going into the holiday season, consider a plan to buy eco-friendly gifts that reduce the energy and resources required to manufacture newer products. Maybe do the same for yourself and look for secondhand items first and save some money in the process.

Or consider throwing a few bucks towards Keep Yankton Beautiful, the only South Dakota-based chapter of Keep America Beautiful. To those that have supported us in 2020, together with the rest of the KYB Board I appreciate your faith in us. We’re also thankful for the support of all the individuals and businesses in Yankton that continue to support the KYB mission with special thanks to Jeremy Basler for arranging this drive, to Hydro of Yankton for their sponsorship and to Kopetzky’s Ace Hardware and Explorers Credit Union for helping this project come to fruition. Together, we keep Yankton a beautiful place to live!

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