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Ask An Expert: What Happens When Non-recyclables End Up in the Blue Bin?

Dear Jenny, They say the recyclables you put in the blue bin should be clean, but honestly, how clean does that pizza box or shampoo bottle...


Dear Jenny,They say the recyclables you put in the blue bin should be clean, but honestly, how clean does that pizza box or shampoo bottle really have to be?-Amanda, BostonHow much cheese is too much? And what about the shampoo caps? Do I have to flatten the cardboard? And really, why no broken glass? These are the kinds of questions that freeze well-meaning recyclers in confusion between the blue bin and the trash can.To get to the bottom of these mysteries, I checked in with the head of Los Angeles's Solid Resource Citywide Recycling Division, Neil Guglielmo, who may be one of the few people in America who actually knows how much cheese is too much. Paper and cardboard, Neil says, do in fact need to be clean. "If it had a sandwich on it and you knock off the crumbs, that's OK. If it had stuck-on lasagna, it can't be recovered." Ditto the pizza box." Both will end up in a landfill. As for unflattened cardboard, it will get recycled, but it hogs a lot of unnecessary space in the truck. And broken glass? It shatters into pieces that are impossible to sort.The trouble with that oozing Aveda bottle is that "it all goes into a big truck, and that smushes this nasty stuff" with the nice clean paper. Neil suggests that you rinse out the bottle once or twice and replace the cap. (Yes, to caps!) And yes, a bottle with a small lake of rosemary-mint shampoo in the bottom will still be recycled, but before that happens, the government has to use our taxes to wash it for you.These mysteries alone don't account for all our recycling mistakes, however. Much of the pepperoni in the blue bins owes less to confusion and more to fear. After all, how many times have we heard that if we all just all recycle, we can save the planet? American environmentalists have always ascribed a lot of earth-saving power (maybe too much) to individual virtue, which puts a lot of planet-saving pressure on individual acts-the flip side being that if you don't recycle, you're destroying the planet. And have you seen a landfill lately? It's a two-day hike to the top.Talk about guilt. Really, it's in the space between confusion and guilt–driven by fear of not knowing whether an item is recyclable and wanting intensely to recycle it-that most recycling errors happen. Remember that wanting the box to be recyclable will not make it so. You decided to order the pizza-not a terrible thing to do, in my opinion-and if you put it in the blue bin it will only take the scenic route to the landfill, which will use up a lot of extra energy and take a lot of innocent paper with it.So take a deep breath and throw the box away. Reduce, reuse, and recycle all the things you reasonably can. And be sure to advocate for green laws and the implementation of new technologies-for the large-scale acts that will make us all more virtuous, collectively, as a community.Jenny Price, environmental writer and "Nature Girl Ph.D," would love to hear your questions about how to be environmentally smart in our complicated 21st-century world. She'll pick the best questions, talk to experts, and get back to you on our site. Leave yours in the comments section.
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The problem with American Sign Language (ASL) is that over 500,000 people in the U.S. use it, but the country has over 330 million people.

So for those with hearing loss, the chances of coming into contact with someone who uses the language are rare. Especially outside of the deaf community.

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Looking back, the year 1995 seems like such an innocent time. America was in the midst of its longest streak of peace and prosperity. September 11, 2001 was six years away, and the internet didn't seem like much more than a passing fad.

Twenty-four years ago, 18 million U.S. homes had modem-equipped computers, 7 million more than the year before. Most logged in through America Online where they got their email or communicated with random strangers in chat rooms.

According to a Pew Research study that year, only 32% of those who go online say they would miss it "a lot" if no longer available.

Imagine what those poll numbers would look like if the question was asked today.

RELATED: Bill and Melinda Gates had a surprising answer when asked about a 70 percent tax on the wealthiest Americans

"Few see online activities as essential to them, and no single online feature, with the exception of E-Mail, is used with any regularity," the Pew article said. "Consumers have yet to begin purchasing goods and services online, and there is little indication that online news features are changing traditional news consumption patterns."

"Late Night" host David Letterman had Microsoft founder and, at that time the richest man in the world, on his show for an interview in '95 to discuss the "the big new thing."

During the interview Letterman chided Gates about the usefulness of the new technology, comparing it to radio and tape recorders.

Gates seems excited by the internet because it will soon allow people to listen to a baseball game on their computer. To which Letterman smugly replies, "Does radio ring a bell?" to laughter from the crowd.

But Gates presses Letterman saying that the new technology allows you to listen to the game "whenever you want," to which Letterman responds, "Do tape recorders ring a bell?"

Gates then tells Letterman he can keep up with the latest in his favorite hobbies such as cigar smoking or race cars through the internet. Letterman shuts him down saying that he reads about his interests in magazines.

RELATED: Bill Gates has five books he thinks you should read this summer.

The discussion ends with the two laughing over meeting like-minded people in "troubled loner chat room on the internet."

The clip brings to mind a 1994 segment on "The Today Show" where host Bryant Gumbel and Katie Couric have a similar discussion.

"What is internet anyway?" an exasperated Gumball asks. "What do you write to it like mail?"

"It's a computer billboard but it's nationwide and it's several universities all joined together and it's getting bigger and bigger all the time," a producer explains from off-stage.





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Photo by Li-An Lim on Unsplash

The future generations will have to live on this Earth for years to come, and, not surprisingly, they're very concerned about the fate of our planet. We've seen a rise in youth activists, such as Greta Thunberg, who are raising awareness for climate change. A recent survey indicates that those efforts are working, as more and more Americans (especially young Americans) feel concerned about climate change.

A new CBS News poll found that 70% of Americans between 18 and 29 feel climate change is a crisis or a serious problem, while 58% of Americans over the age of 65 share those beliefs. Additionally, younger generations are more likely to feel like it's their personal responsibility to address climate change, as well as think that transitioning to 100% renewable energy is viable. Overall, 25% of Americans feel that climate change is a "crisis," and 35% feel it is a "serious problem." 10% of Americans said they think climate change is a minor problem, and 16% of Americans feel it is not a problem that worries them.

The poll found that concern for the environment isn't a partisan issue – or at least when it comes to younger generations. Two-thirds of Republicans under the age of 45 feel that addressing climate change is their duty, sentiments shared by only 38% of Republicans over the age of 45.

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