The April 20th explosion of the BP-leased oil rig, Deepwater Horizon, is yet another reason for us to look at renewable fuels as an alternative to our high energy demands. Who really knows how many gallons of oil leaked into the Gulf of Mexico and are washing up on many environmentally sensitive coastlines? This is yet another disaster that Louisiana’s coastal residents and neighboring states will have to face nearly five years after Hurricane Katrina. Many of the Gulf’s oil rigs were destroyed or heavily damaged during the hurricane.
Americans and the rest of the developed world have a heavy appetite for energy. Where do we get most of the energy that we have come to expect as part of our everyday lives? Much of it comes from crude oil. It surrounds us—from the fuel we use for our vehicles to the Styrofoam cups from which you drank your coffee this morning. Just here in my office, I am surrounded by oil-derived products.
The laptop computer I’m using to type this article is encased in plastic, a byproduct of crude oil. Other items on my desk that contain petroleum-based plastic are a telephone, rolodex, organizer, portfolio, calculator, ink pens and tape dispenser. Inside my desk drawers, I find more items that contain petroleum-based plastic: more tape dispensers, the cover of a pocket calendar, clear plastic casings for sticker labels and thumb tacks, a paper clip dispenser, camera cover, the protective plastic sheet on the back of a roll of Velcro, a heavy-duty paper clip holder, an outdated IBM storage disk, a USB external drive with plastic covering, a plastic battery package, plastic letter opener, telephone cord and connections. And that’s just one drawer…if I kept digging, I could find many more plastic-based products (I need to clean out my desk!).
What can we do to curb the landfill’s appetite for all of these non-renewable-energy-based products that we take for granted on a daily basis? First, we can recycle. Many businesses recycle office paper, cardboard and aluminum cans. Plastic can also be recycled. If you look on the bottom of most plastic containers, you will see a triangular emblem accompanied by a number which identifies the product as recyclable. Computers, printers and used ink cartridges can all be recycled. Plastic grocery bags, metal cans, glass bottles, used engine oil, tires, batteries, cell phones…the list of all the items we can recycle goes on and on. Are we recycling these items or just throwing them in a convenient garbage container? Maybe you no longer have a need for a product that would still be useful to someone else. Consider donating items to Goodwill or the Salvation Army. There are several of these stores in Peoria. Have a garage sale.
Another excellent choice is to purchase renewable products, such as those that are made from the crops grown by Peoria-area farmers. In fact, this is nature’s way of recycling. As the 2009 harvest finally came to a conclusion (in 2010), Peoria County farmers harvested over 20 million bushels of corn and three million bushels of soybeans. Tazewell and Woodford County farmers harvested nearly 30 million bushels of corn and over five million bushels of soybeans in each of their respective counties. What played a huge role in producing these products was the sun’s energy and the storms that bring the rains. Of course, we are also blessed with excellent soil and a temperate climate in central Illinois.
Corn and soybeans are used to make many consumer products, but could be used to make so many more. Several of the more common products that contain corn are fuel ethanol, aspirin, cosmetics, paints, inks, soaps and cleaners, toothpaste, wallpaper, shoe polish, shaving cream, lotions, and disposable diapers. Soybeans can be used to make biodiesel, crayons, cleaners, candles, polish, shampoos, waxes, composite materials…again, the list is extensive and continues to grow.
The bottom line is that we as consumers of energy-based products determine the products that companies will produce. So think about the items you purchase, how they will be disposed of, and how they will affect our environment and quality of life. iBi
» An excellent contact for local recycling centers is Peoria County Recycling. You can reach them at (309) 681-2550, or go to their website at peoriacounty.org and click on the Recycling and Conserve page.