The time has come for people to treat recyclables with the same respect they treat their trash: put items in a cart for pick-up; don't toss them to the side of the road or in the landfill.

A proposal for a 20-year McLean County solid waste plan has a goal of getting 80 percent of waste recycled by 2037. In Normal, 65 percent of households participate in a curbside pick-up program. In Bloomington, 80 percent of households participate. Normal also has drop-off sites, but easy recycling options are not available for apartment buildings or businesses.

That needs to change.

We all know about recyclable materials: glass, plastic, metal, paper and tires all can be kept from a landfill and reused in different ways. The less that goes into a landfill, the better; our landfill space is finite. Why burn trash, which causes air pollution, or fill up a landfill with items that can be re-purposed, especially if the items are those that never will decompose?

Disposable diapers, plastic bottles, glass of all sorts, soda cans, tires and so much more will outlast every living thing on this planet. But re-purposed, they can become plastic benches, playground surfaces or new bottles. Even items that degrade over time — like paper or cardboard — can be recycled into new pulp and made into new paper or cardboard.

“We know often people are resistant to more regulations, so where we can find solutions to any of these gaps in services ... that would be ideal — but we know in some communities an ordinance has been very effective,” Michael Brown, executive director at the Ecology Action Center, said in a recent Pantagraph story.

The center developed the new plan with help from the city of Bloomington, town of Normal and McLean County government, all of which will be asked to formally approve it before February. If voluntary plans don't work, it's possible the municipalities and county could enact ordinances making it a law to offer recycling services.

It's hard to be against recycling, unless you're just plain lazy, because governments make the process so easy. In both Bloomington and Normal, you can request a special recycling bin or cart. Drop in your recyclable items and leave the bin or cart at the curb; municipal workers will pick them up and get the items to a place where they can be reused. If you don't want to walk your recyclable items to the cart in your garage, keep a small box, paper sack or plastic tub near the kitchen for those items, and make the trip to the garage once a week.

Recycling has become more common and accepted, but there's more to do and that's the goal of the 2037 plan. It's the topic of the County Board Land Use Committee public hearing at 3:30 p.m. Dec. 7 at the Government Center, 115 E. Washington St., Bloomington.

Refill that water bottle and let's get to work.

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