Karen Neder of Rock Island takes big steps to cut litter on the planet, and in celebration of Earth Day on Monday, she shared how others can help too.
Neder manages the local chapter for Terracycle, a recycling company based out of New Jersey that collects those hard-to-recycle items.
What started as a personal effort for Neder to be more environmentally friendly, has spread across the Quad Cities community.
Neder stores the items she collects at Trinity Luthern Church, located at 1330 13th Street in Moline. If you stop by the church, you can pick up a bag to fill with your items, and a list of what they’ll accept.
And there’s a lot of little things that may take up space in your home, but Neder says shouldn’t be thrown in the trash.
Neder collects old VHS tapes, batteries, holiday lights, the handles of shaving razors and more.
She says sometimes people get deterred from recycling because it can be time consuming, or they don’t know how to recycle certain items.
“20 to 50 percent of what we actually put in our city bins is not recycled,” said Neder. “So I think a lot of people are just sort of hope-cycling and saying ‘oh I hope that they take this.'”
That’s why Neder says she’s hoping her efforts will raise awareness, and help Quad Citians de-clutter their homes and the landfills.
“They have to hear about it a certain number of times before they actually process it and then are able to think ‘oh well I could do that too.'”
She says what may seem like one harmless chip bag in the trash, quickly adds up.
“Well, think about it as ‘it’s only one chip bag’ said seven billion people in one day,” she said. “So it’s a huge impact.”
Add that to decades of plastic waste we’ve already seen, and Neder says we’ve got a problem.
“Every bit of plastic that has been created since the 1940’s- 50’s is still on the earth,” she said. “And a lot of those plastics are getting into our oceans and they’re breaking down and the fish are eating them and it’s a real crisis right now.”
But she says you can be part of the solution just by making small changes to your daily routine in three easy ways.
The first, swapping those plastic coffee cups from the drive thru, for one reusable cup.
“If you drink coffee every day, that’s 365 cups of coffee every year,” she said.
The same goes for plastic straws. Neder carries a reusable straw that she can keep with her on the go.
And finally, ditching plastic bags for reusable bags. Neder carries a reusable bag that folds up and clips to her purse so she won’t forget it.
At Terracycle Quad Cities they’ve also filled boxes with old gift cards and credit cards, and so many batteries that they can’t lift the boxes.
It’s a whole room of small things at the church that when recycled, make a big difference.
Which is why Neder says she hopes people will start making small changes toward keeping our planet safe.
“Always reduce as much as you can first and reuse as much as you can second,” said Neder. “And then if you can’t reduce or reuse, then recycle, use things that are recyclable.”
You can find a full list of what Terracycle Quad Cities will accept on their Facebook page here.
And you can learn more about Terracycle here.
All proceeds collected through their recycling efforts with Terracycle go towards funding the pre-school at Trinity Luthern Church. Neder says they’ve raised roughly $1,500 in the past five years.