Monday, November 17, 2014

Episode 240 (11-17-14): Solid-waste Recycling Does a "Solid" for Water, Too

Click to listen to episode (3:16)


From the Cumberland Gap to the Atlantic Ocean, this is Virginia Water Radio for the week of November 17, 2014.

Sound - 4 sec.

What does that clatter have to do with water?  Have a listen for about 15 seconds to some of the components of the clatter, and see if you can guess what widespread household practice for handling these components has several water benefits.  And here’s a hint: you might have to go around and around to guess this.

Sounds – 15 sec.

If you guessed waste recycling, you’re right!  Those were the sounds of plastic and glass bottles, an aluminum can, mixed paper, and an electronics device.   All are common components in the municipal solid waste stream—that is, the mix of materials that households, businesses, and institutions routinely must manage either by disposal or by recycling.  In recent years, Virginians have been recycling about 40 percent of their municipal solid waste.  That choice has saved not only landfill space but also significant amounts of energy.  According to the U.S. EPA, in 2012 nationwide recycling of municipal solid waste saved the amount of energy typically used annually by almost 10 million households.

And energy is a big water issue:

Water is used in all phases of electricity and fuels generation. [Sound - electric power line]

Energy is needed to provide water for human uses and to treat wastewater. [Sound - household faucet and drain]

And energy use is implicated in climate change, which has many effects on water resources. [Sound - thunder and rain]

But solid-waste recycling has non-energy-related water benefits, too.  Recycling certain materials—for example, electronics—can reduce the levels of metals and other pollutants that may ultimately reach water bodies.  Mid-November offers a perfect time to consider these connections between solid waste and water, because November 15 is America Recycles Day—an annual, nationwide recycling initiative organized by Keep America Beautiful.  On that day, or any day, how citizens manage this kind of stream [Sound - commingled containers - 2-3 sec.] – has important consequences for this kind [Sound – flowing water - 2-3 sec.].

For other water sounds and music, and for more Virginia water information, visit our Web site at, or call us at (540) 231-5463.  From the Virginia Water Resources Research Center in Blacksburg, I’m Alan Raflo, thanking you for listening, and wishing you health, wisdom, and good water.


[All Internet addresses mentioned were functional as of 11/13/14]

Mixed paper recycling bin (upper photo) and commingled containers recycling bin instructions (lower photo), both on the Virginia Tech campus in Blacksburg, Nov. 12, 2014.

Sources for This Episode and for More Information on Waste Management and Recycling

Keep America Beautiful, “America Recycles Day” Web site,

U.S. Department of Energy, “The Water-Energy Nexus: Challenged and Opportunities,” June 2014, online at

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), “Electronic Donations and Recycling” Web site,

U.S. EPA, “Municipal Solid Waste Generation, Recycling, and Disposal in the United States: Facts and Figures for 2012,” February 2014, online at

EPA “Resource Conservation/Common Waste and Materials” Web site,  At this site, see individual links to paper, glass, etc.

U.S. EPA, “Wastes” Web site,  At this site, see links to non-hazardous, municipal solid waste, resource conservation, etc.

Virginia Department of Environmental Quality’s Division of Land Protection and Revitalization, online at  Annual solid waste reports and the current recycling rate report (November 2013, for 2012 data) are available online at

For selected news, events, and resources relevant to waste management and water in Virginia, please see the Virginia Water Central News Grouper posts available online at

Related Virginia Water Radio Episodes

Episode 107, 4/16/12 – Disposing of Medications Properly.
Episode 180, 9/23/13 – Annual Virginia Waterways Cleanups.
Episode 188, 11/18/13 – Putting Used Motor Oil in its Place.

SOLs Information for Virginia Teachers

This episode may help with Science Standards of Learning (SOLs) for Earth Resources in grades 4 and 6, and Earth Science SOL ES.6.