At home, in the office and at school, individuals in North County have successfully launched recycling programs. Here are some of their stories:
When Lauren Michele married Kenneth Seals two years ago, she inherited twin boys, five barrels of trash a week and a mission.
Through a concentrated effort, the Seals family reduced their trash from five to just one 33-gallon barrel a week. The rest is recycled through Solana Recyclers.
"Like marriage, it's been a compromise," Lauren Seals said. "In the beginning, it sounds like you are asking a lot, but you really aren't. It's just a matter of awareness and organization."
From her kitchen command post, Seals found a place for reusable plastic bags, aluminum foil and tin. Each room in her house contains separate trash cans for recyclable and nonrecyclable items.
Solana Recyclers provides a biweekly curbside collection program for paper (white, colored, computer, bags, junk mail, magazines, telephone books, catalogues, towels), plastic (milk, soda and mineral water bottles), aluminum (cans, foil, frozen dinner trays, pie pans, old baking pans and scrap), glass (beverage bottles and food jars) and newspapers.
The family also recycles cardboard (cereal and cracker boxes, empty toilet paper and paper towel rolls, corrugated packing boxes) and plastic bags (fruit and vegetable bags, freezer bags and dry cleaning bags), which they take to the recycling center themselves.
Seals returns used motor oil to a local gas station and waits for a community collection day to rid her home of toxic containers, like paints and pesticides, which are collected at an appointed site.
"I give reusable items like clothing, shoes, toys, household and building materials to (a local charity)," Seals said.
Seals uses her own bags for shopping items, returns hangers to the dry cleaners and totes reusable containers for take-out food. She combines errands with trips to the recycling center each week.
"Ken and I used to fly out of the house in our robes when we'd hear the trash truck coming," Seals said. "Now, it's no big deal. We hear the recycling truck coming, that's when we fly out of the house. When I realized that, I knew we were making a difference."
Pat MacCarthy Yeakley
Dubbed the "Queen of Recycling" by her friends, Yeakley recently taught a class on composting, a controlled decaying process for kitchen waste and plant matter.
Yard waste is a major contributor to landfills amounting to 22.2% of the waste collected at the San Marcos facility, the only landfill in North County, according to San Diego County figures. Within the past six months, an innovative grinding program at the San Marcos landfill reduced 9,000 tons of yard waste to mulch, said Richard Anthony, principal solid waste manager for the county.
Yeakley and two friends, Sue Eckley and Bobbie Carnes, began Environmental Express, which is affiliated with the American Assn. of University Women, Del Mar-Leucadia branch. The trio alert the membership to environmentally conscious activities.
"Once you become aware, you become a terrible pain," Yeakley said. "Things you never thought about become obvious. Most people want to do the right thing. But you can't ask people to change unless you give them an alternative."
Yeakley tells the story of taking an exercise class at the local YMCA. Thirsty after her workout, she headed for the refreshments.
"I had 75 cents clutched in my hand when I spotted this enormous beacon of Styrofoam cups," Yeakley said. "My mission changed."
She talked YMCA personnel into providing paper cups. Styrofoam (the more common name for polystyrene) is made from styrene and benzene, which the Environmental Protection Agency ranked among the top six chemicals whose production creates hazardous waste.
Yeakley is a member of North County Coastal Styro-Free Task Force, a group organized in August by Solana Recyclers and the North County Coastal Greens to reduce the use of polystyrene. The organization is currently involved in a campaign to educate businesses on alternative packaging products.
McRoskey, chairman of Republic Tool, buys plastics for reprocessing at his Carlsbad-based plant. Republic Tool produced a few thousand pounds of recycled plastic two years ago, but today processes more than 3-million pounds.
"We're accepting plastics from the consumer waste stream that we reprocess into safety barricades that we sell to cities and states for traffic control," McRoskey said. "Without present capability, we could go to 5-million (pounds) and install new equipment to a factor of 10 million. We'd be able to expand the amount of processing as we expand the sale of the product."
Start-up costs to recycle the plastics were in excess of $1 million, McRoskey said. Although Republic Tool is the only North County business that processes recyclables, McRoskey feels state, county and city capital investment would entice more business owners to follow his lead.