Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Foundation

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Dec 07th
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Home Our Missions Environmental Protection Not as Dumb as It Seems - Worth the effort

Not as Dumb as It Seems - Worth the effort

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 Worth the effort
Bag after bag of waste glass, gathered from streets, restaurants, and clinics, converged at a recycling station set up at a factory owned by Tzu Chi volunteer Liao Chao-zhong (廖朝仲). Volunteers weighed the bags and found that they came to a total weight of 4.7 tons, valued at 520 renminbi (US$75).

This was the result of more than 20 days of effort by a group of Tzu Chi volunteers living in Nanjing County, Fujian Province, southeastern China. The money was not much--only enough to help two or three impoverished students pay for a semester’s tuition. In fact, an outsider might not even deem the amount of money earned worth the enormous effort. But for volunteer Liao Chao-zhong, the glass drive was eminently worthwhile.

“Can you imagine what it would look like if all this broken glass was scattered along riverbanks, under trees, or in the soil?” he asked.

Knowing that what they are doing helps the environment, Liao and a group of like-minded Tzu Chi volunteers are committed to recycling waste glass. The group of volunteers in Nanjing consists of Liao, his wife, and some local residents. Most days, they comb the streets for recyclables. Once a month they gather at the recycling station at Liao’s textile factory to sort out the items they’re collected. Between December 2006 and April this year, they recycled nearly 55 tons of glass, equivalent to over 98,000 glass bottles. That’s about 5,800 bottles a month!

Low monetary profits, but high environmental benefits
Many locals in Nanjing earn a living by collecting metal cans and plastic bottles, but no one collects waste glass. It just doesn’t pay to do so. Glass is difficult to transport, troublesome to separate by color (clear, green, and brown), and costly to recycle. Local recycling businesses refuse to take it because no one in the area wants to use it. Most factories would rather use fresh ingredients to make new glass than take the time and expense to recycle waste glass.

According to statistics, only 13 percent of glass is recycled in China. There’s just not enough monetary incentive to bother with it. Empty wine bottles from restaurants, IV drip bottles from clinics, and seedling culture bottles from flower cultivators are carelessly tossed in the trash or discarded on the sides of roads, along rivers, or in fields. Not only is the litter an eyesore, but the broken glass is a safety hazard as well.

Glass never decomposes. A million years later it will still be there. For this reason alone, recycling glass has huge environmental benefits. Plus, glass recycling saves energy, reduces pollution, and decreases the use of natural resources. It takes more than 700 kilograms of quartz, a hundred kilograms of pure alkali, other raw chemical materials, heavy oil, and electricity to produce a ton of glass. Producing new glass undoubtedly has a large role in the consumption of the earth’s resources.

In order to reduce the burden on the planet, the Tzu Chi volunteers in Nanjing County decided to take up the job of collecting waste glass. They looked everywhere for a recycling company that would purchase it. Finally, they found one in the city of Zhangzhou, about a 30-minute drive away. Furthermore, the company was willing to come to Nanjing periodically to collect the glass gathered by Tzu Chi volunteers. The company crushes the bottles and ships the broken glass to factories in Guangdong Province, southern China, or Shandong Province, eastern China, to be reprocessed and reused.


 

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" It is meaningless to demand others’ respect. Only the respect inspired by the goodness of our character is real and true. "
Jing-Si Aphorism

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