We live in a throw-away world. The average American family seems to produce a house-sized pile of trash every year.

When we can all see the limitations of our resources, it defies logic and simple common sense to continue our wasteful ways.

A big part of the solution is here and it's easy - recycling.

Recycling has never been so simple, or so all inclusive. In Thurston County, where I live, the home recycling bin holds mixed materials. Paper, cans, plastics all go in the same container.

In the past, common sources of waste, such as pizza boxes, had to go in the trash because they were contaminated with food waste. No more. Now they can go in the other big plastic bin we keep behind the garage - the yard waste receptacle. The county landfill grinds up paper, cardboard, leftover food - even bones - along with the grass clippings and garden trimmings that always filled the blue bins. They are composted and then put to use to make more fertile soil.

Glass bottles must still be segregated, but are picked up monthly, as well.

We take it one step further by having a home compost bin, too. Our vegetable scraps, egg shells, and coffee grounds go in the bin, where an incredible population of worms helps break them down into rich, black soil in a few weeks.

Recycling takes seconds, at most, from the daily routine. You just make a choice where you toss the waste.

It is effective, too. Years ago we were able to shift to the smallest trash container provided - and that with an insert to make it hold half the apparent volume. With the expansion in what is now recyclable, we can't fill even that small trash bin in a week. We might cut our trash pickup to every other week - saving us money, too.

It is all so easy. So why don't more people recycle'

Last weekend, my neighborhood held its annual picnic. We had a barbecue in the neighborhood park - pulled pork, smoked brisket, lots of desserts. It was a great feed. In light of the recycling requirements, the trash cans at the picnic were clearly labeled: "paper plates and food" in one, "plastic" in another.

These weren't small signs; the letters were six inches high and in bold print. But when it came time to clean up after the event, we found that people had thoughtlessly mixed types of waste. Since nobody stepped forward to take on the unpleasant task of sorting through the large bags of sticky, wet trash, it all headed to the landfill.

That is the way it too often goes. Everybody sees the logic of recycling, but people still just toss things without a thought - even when the responsible alternative is only a foot away.

Joint Base Lewis-McChord is a leader in sustainable operations. Our goals include eliminating all solid waste. That means recycling everything we no longer use. Everyone needs to play a part. That means taking advantage of the easy, sustainable alternatives to the trashcan.

Look at it as a mission. Everyone in uniform knows about missions. You are dedicated to making them a success. Make this one a success, too.

We have yet to reach the point where we can recycle everything, but we are close. Take those few seconds to pitch your trash in the responsible bin.

It is only common sense to do so.

David W. Kuhns Sr. is editor of Joint Base Lewis-McChord's weekly newspaper, the Northwest Guardian.

Page last updated Fri August 27th, 2010 at 14:04