There is progress being made toward improving our city’s waste management problem. Recently, the city’s plastic bag ban has been reinstated after being withdrawn during the pandemic. On March 25, The Break Free from Plastic Pollution Act of 2021 was officially introduced to Congress. On Jan. 1, the city of Pasadena will begin allowing residents to compost food waste in yard waste bins. These are all good things, but will Pasadena residents know how to implement these changes?

I often see odd things sticking out of people’s blue bins: lawn chairs, umbrellas, polystyrene packing materials, plastic bags, diapers, old clothes, and all types of plastic that cannot be recycled.

I saw a neighbor throwing plastic bags full of dirt into her yard waste bin today. The list of what is recyclable/compostable and what is not is on the city of Pasadena website, but finding it requires time that most of us don’t have. By leaving an uneducated public, we put the burden of sorting out unwanted items and items that can destroy equipment to the MRFs and composting facilities. If every city passes the buck to sorting facilities outside their city limits, then these fixes to our waste stream can never truly be implemented.

These days we are inundated with emails, fliers, and junkmail, most of which we ignore. We need a strong community based social marketing campaign to educate our residents on the correct ways to recycle and compost, and to garner commitments from them to participate. This can only happen with one-on-one contact, which the city claims they can’t afford. What we can’t afford is for our waste to continue unabated for years to come. Let’s put money down now to educate our residents and invest in the future.

Jay Whittaker