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Making a difference through recycling

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POSTED: August 18, 2007 5:03 a.m.

I have always thought life was as simple as ABC’s "After School Specials" that I watched as a kid.

There was no problem too big to solve through hard work. Those same "After School Specials" also solved problems in less than five minutes through a montage of pictures with inspirational pop music playing in the background (no not Prince music,: think Michael Jackson’s "Man in the Mirror").

These shows inspired a bucked tooth 6th grader, me, thanks mom for not sharing the photos, to save the world through recycling.

I started with those amazing shining aluminum cans that I consumed soft drinks out of five to six times a day during the summer.

I loaded the Wham "Make it Big" tape into the Sony Walkman, applied some more Aqua Net to my finely manicured hair and hit the streets near my house (I wish my parents did not buy the house on the top of the hill). Two hours and four cans later I was tired and frustrated. My attempts to save the world through aluminum fell as flat as the Great Plains.

As life progressed, through high school and college, I continued to think about recycling.

Do not throw the can away, I would tell myself, you can make a difference through recycling.

As a compromise I would throw the can in the back of my Toyota truck. I will recycle the can later, when I have time. About five miles down the road the can was playing "Frogger" on the interstate.

The cars normally won over the can.

If the can did make it off the Los Angeles freeways, it rolled into a local wash and took a rafting trip to the ocean. Bon voyage can! Your next port of call is Santa Monica Bay.

Over the last year I started to take recycling seriously. My family and I moved to Savannah. I had moved from Green Bay and the opportunity to walk during lunch and work on my farmer tan during lunch was a "no brainer."

During the walks I noticed that aluminum cans were plentiful among the trees and swamps. I guess snakes and alligators do not eat aluminum? A few days later I drove by a recycling place and saw aluminum for 65 cents a pound. I had a bright idea. I could recycle the plentiful cans, save the world and get rich at the same time (hello fruity drinks and retirement at age 50).

To make me feel better about saving the world and less selfish about doing it for the money, I went to the earth911.org website and found out the following information about aluminum recycling.

- Recycling aluminum cans saves 95 percent of the energy used to make aluminum cans from virgin ore.

- Recycling one aluminum can saves enough energy to keep a 100-watt bulb burning for almost four hours.

- Throwing away an aluminum can wastes as much energy as pouring out half of that can’s volume in gasoline.

I started to walk with a skip in my step. The ten cans I find a day are making a difference. What if everyone at my work recycled that many cans? What if everyone in my town recycled two cans a day?

Go ahead, call me a dreamer and tell me that this task is too difficult. I ask you to take a minute and think about how many times you see cans in the trash at work or rolling around in a parking lot at a supermarket. Before you ask where do you put the can, think about the number of times you drove by a school, fire department or other non profit organization and they had a trailer for you to donate your cans. Ok, that problem is solved. Get that plastic Target bag that once held Circus Peanuts and find some cans.

 

To make your journey into recycling more interesting I have named the wayward cans based off of their appearance. See if you can find five of these over the course of the week.

 

The Hanging by a Thread Can

 

This can as you can see by its appearance was about ready to become one with the earth. Congratulations you saved it from becoming part of a gravel parking lot.

 

The Novice Frogger Can

 

After being tossed out of moving vehicle this can tried vigilantly to make it to the safety of the curb. Whether it was bad timing or a lack of stamina this can was flattened by a vehicle. Through recycling this can regain its voluptuous cylinder shape.

 

Note: If this can is found on dirt, it may have become the roof of an ant colony. The removal of the can will send many ants in a tirade seeking revenge. Those bites sure do hurt.

 

Ripe for the Picking Can

 

Recently dropped by a consumer this can is full of life and vigor ready to explore the world through the power of the wind. You can save this can from becoming one of the above by a quick grab.

 

Over the last three months I have recycled 1500 cans lining my pockets with nearly $30. I have found these cans on daily walks. I have resisted the temptation to blow my new found wealth on Britney Spears hair band and instead use the money to buy stocks through an on-line account. More importantly I am saving a precious resource and feeling good about what I am doing.

 

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