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The “chasing arrows” recycling symbol is a familiar sight, reminding us that recycling is a practice with great positive effect on the planet. It’s hard on the conscience to toss an item with those arrows on it into a trash bin.

Lesser known is the fact that the symbol was created by a USC architecture student who submitted the design for a contest in the 1970s. While we tend to think that recycling is a relatively new concept, its roots go back to 9th century Japan, when people recycled paper for use in paintings and poetry.

Recycling reached the New World in 1690, when the paper produced from recycled linens and cotton rags was sold to printers to make newspapers and Bibles. World War II spawned a national recycling campaign, with most Americans happy to join in the effort to conserve resources and recycle tens of thousands of tons of material for the war effort.

Surprisingly, some states in the U.S. still don’t have regulated recycling programs, but the first curbside collection of yard waste, metals and paper began in America in the 1960s. The 70s saw a revived emphasis on the green movement, with Earth Day being celebrated for the first time on April 22, 1970. By 1985, the U.S. was at 10 percent recycling participation; ten years later, it was at 20 percent. Today, some states, Vermont at the top, have close to 100 percent participation.

Despite significant upward ticks in recycling participation and a green consciousness that has us questioning the likes of plastic straws and individual water bottles that have clogged up our oceans and threatened marine life, much of the material we recycle doesn’t make it past the landfill. While we blithely toss our items, often into a single bin for all recyclables, much of that material is unusable due to contaminants, breakage, or other causes.  Further compounding the issue is China and other countries’ recent restrictions on the amount of recycled material they will accept.

But there is still great progress and cause for positivity, especially in places like Naperville. The city has an environmental sustainability program that includes a holiday lights recycling initiative, annual Earth Week, silver Solsmart status, a smart thermostat rebate offer, and rain barrels. In 2018, Naperville ranked number two in its population category for the Wyland National Mayor’s Challenge for Water Conservation.

Naperville’s Park District is “green with enthusiasm,” and the city of Naperville also has a pollination station containing native plants that offer a natural habitat for butterflies and other pollinators.

By our very name, Monarch Landing is literally a haven for the butterflies and other insects, birds and pollinators that keep ecology moving in a healthy direction. As for recycling, Monarch Landing rises above even the city of Naperville’s standard of single stream (one bin for all material) recycling.

We offer residents multi-stream recycling, with pickup twice a week, which allows them to separate various recyclable materials. While this requires a bit more effort, it lessens the risk of contaminants and glass breakage rendering these items unrecyclable and, thus, destined for the landfill. Our community also bales our cardboard and sells it to waste management.

Much more fun is our resident-operated Treasure Chest resale shop. This is where residents can donate housewares, clothing, books, décor, and more. It is also where they can purchase gently used or new items at bargain prices. Best of all, proceeds from the Treasure Chest benefit Monarch Landing’s Benevolent Care Fund in support of residents experiencing financial hardships.

Together, we can make everything old new again!