Earth Day every day in Douglas |

Earth Day every day in Douglas

Hundreds of plastic bottles destined for recycling are seen here at the Douglas County Transfer Station in April.
Brad Coman

For many, Sunday’s Earth Day celebration is an occasion to plant trees, or do a river or beach clean-up.

But for the most part, people are reminded they can, in fact, recycle those soda cans and that old plastic milk jug.

They become heroes for the day while they rinse out their empty bean cans and pasta sauce jars and place them in the new recycling bins, purchased for the effort.

Then, maybe a week goes by, and the fad ends, receding once again until the next Earth Day when people remember to do their part.

However, this really isn’t the case in Douglas County. In fact, Douglas residents are among the most enthusiastic recyclers in the state, and the percentages are steadily growing.

“Douglas County leads in Recycling statewide with a recycling rate of 62 percent,” the Nevada Recycles website reports, taken from their 2015 data. In 2012, they reported only 51 percent of Douglas County residents recycled, which is no small increase.

They lead far, far ahead of the pack. Washoe County comes up second with 31 percent, followed by Clark at 18 percent, and Elko limps painfully behind at a shameful 1.8 percent.

Even the Douglas County School District participates in improving the overall statistics. They reported that 20 schools diverted more than 127,000 pounds of recyclables, earning over $5,000 in the process.

Human Resource Manager Jeanne Lear of Douglas Disposal said there is definitely more awareness regarding recycling around Earth Day.

“I certainly notice a consciousness towards recycling in the community around Earth Day,” Lear said. “Most locals who recycle, however, do so on a steady basis. But there’s much more awareness from schools and businesses, which is always nice to see.”

What exactly happens to our recyclables once we drop them off at the transfer stations? Well, they are generally processed into bales at local plants, and then shipped off either to various locations around the country, or the world. The majority goes to west Sacramento — to Ming’s Recycling — and items that can’t be broken down and repurposed (mostly plastics) are sent to Pacific Rim countries like China, Vietnam or Indonesia.

Recently, China has upped their standards on what they will accept, putting the U.S. in a bit of a bind.

“China is being more scrupulous,” Lear said. “They’re checking for contamination, and if they find any, they’ll reject the whole load. Once rejected, those bales can be transferred to Vietnam or Indonesia, which adds extra shipping fees.”

Closer to home, local resident Kate McBride, who has lived in the area for the past 45 years, said recycling is something she takes very seriously.

“I recycle to save the earth, and I have been for the last 15-20 years, since the program first started,” McBride said. “It’s important to reuse things. Anything we can reuse, we should.”

The Nevada Recycling Grant program also funds local organizations, municipalities, school districts and other public institutions with specific recycling projects, with up to $50,000 in funding available.

In addition, there are several grant opportunities, student scholarships, and contests available from the Nevada Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, all focused on recycling. An annual Recycled Art Contest, which began in 2014, is open to both students and adults alike, and a prize of $250 is awarded to the top projects in each age category.