“When you refuse to reuse, it’s our Earth you abuse.”

“Make our planet a cleaner place to live.”

“Save the marine life!”

“Reduce, reuse, recycle!”

These are some of the recycling-related statements that we see practically everywhere, whether it be in advertisements, social media, PSAs, schools or speeches. However, we mindlessly glance at or hear these sayings for a bit, then move on and forget about them. These topics are overused, insignificant and never going to matter here in Hennepin County, right?

Well, not exactly.

Hennepin County Waste Management has invested a significant amount of resources, and has taken several measures, to manage waste in the most environmentally conscious and cost-effective methods possible.

A few weeks ago, I went on a tour at the Hennepin County Recycling and Transfer Station in Brooklyn Park. The tour guide showed us around multiple parts of the facility, and how different types of waste are sorted and reused. He also informed us about what we, as residents of Hennepin County, should do with certain products after using them. Everything I saw, heard, and learned about at the transfer station was incredibly eye-opening and informational, and have led me to identify some major issues in how we discard our waste.

Batteries are a common source of power that can mistakenly be thrown into the trash, which is incredibly harmful to the environment. Batteries contain toxic metals like mercury and lead, and these can contaminate our environment if not disposed of properly. There are multiple drop-off facilities for products that have toxic chemicals within them, that are right in Hennepin County. Additionally, drop-off containers for batteries are located in Hennepin County libraries, community centers, city halls and more for convenience.

Paints and pesticides are also made up of harmful substances, so we cannot be throwing these away either. What Hennepin County does a good job of is utilizing products in an effective manner. The Hennepin County Recycling and Transfer Station actually has a system in which you can donate leftover paint that you don’t need. The leftover paint cans are placed at the free product center, and people who need paint can pick them up and use them for free. This way, we can help protect the environment and provide supplies that some people might normally be unable to afford.

One of the most severe issues in Hennepin County, that is rarely discussed, is how much food we unjustly throw away. Though it’s extremely difficult to change this habit, what can be done is composting. You can create your own compost pile right at home, or if that’s too much work, bring organics to the Hennepin County Recycling and Transfer Station, where they deliver them to a composting facility in the Twin Cities.

Some of us might still feel that taking part in waste management is too much work, and not worth it. So, the only question to ask — is why? Why do we have to let our apathy destroy the resources we rely on? British economist and writer Barbara Ward once said, “We have forgotten how to be good guests, how to walk lightly on the earth as its other creatures do.” It’s about time we stop this behavior, and start thinking about ourselves, our future generations, and the planet that has never failed to take care of us.

Aspiring journalist Harini Senthilkumar is an eighth-grader at Central Middle School in Eden Prairie. She enjoys singing and writing.

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