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South Carolina Honors College

Where Are the Blue Bins?

by Sophia Conner 

It’s Saturday morning and I’m walking down Main Street Columbia, enjoying my freshly squeezed lemonade and mini donuts. Once I finish, I search for a familiar blue bin to throw away my cup and little cardboard tray, and yet I see nothing but black bins. Soda City Market has long been a favorite tradition for South Carolinians because we’re able to support small, local businesses, all while eating delicious foods and looking at beautiful works of art. However, something I’ve noticed is that there are no recycling bins, only gigantic dumpsters where everything becomes intermixed and, ultimately, heads to a landfill. All of the times that I’ve been to this street festival, I can safely say that most of the packaging the vendors use is recyclable, and yet it doesn’t matter, because there’s nowhere to put it. 

South Carolina’s recycling rate is only 28.7 percent, reports the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control. Other places recycle much more, including Germany with its rate of 56.1 percent. That means so many items that could be recycled are thrown in the trash, either because someone didn’t care, they simply didn’t know, or because there was no option for putting it in the right place. Only 9 percent of America’s plastic is being recycled, so most of it ends up in landfills, the ocean, or the stomachs of confused, hungry animals, Greenpeace discovered. Although SCDHEC says that all forty-six counties in South Carolina have recycling centers and trucks, I have never seen a bin or truck in Horry County in all the years my family and I have been vacationing there. 

Who knows how much recyclable waste is being put out into our world because our state doesn’t deem the preservation of local ecosystems a pressing issue? There’s a false stereotype going around that recycling is more expensive than trash programs, but according to Michael S. Reagan, director of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Solid Waste, “recycling programs can cost anywhere from $50 to more than $150 per ton … trash collection and disposal programs, on the other hand, cost anywhere from $70 to more than $200 per ton.” So it’s actually for the benefit of our state to install recycling programs, because it’s even cheaper than trash collection.  

I think there should be an effort to make recycling more available for all counties, and establish bins on sidewalks, especially with how little it costs. There especially needs to be recycling cans at festivals, parks, and any public place where plastic is sold to a mass of people. Our government needs to put an emphasis on saving our world because we have limited time to right our wrongs. 

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.