Patriotism and Recycling? Do they go together? The Monroe County Solid Waste Management District (District) says they do. In the summer we are outside more, picnicking, boating, fishing, hiking, swimming or just enjoying our yards. However, summer is also a time when, in addition to the 4th of July holiday, we think about what patriotism means.

Are you patriotic? Do you show love and loyal support of the United States or whatever country you are from by taking care of the earth? Proper earth care is part of being patriotic, and it is part of being a good citizen. However, being patriotic goes beyond voting and flying a flag on your home or car. The District can help you put patriotism into action by helping you reduce waste.

There are simple, practical ways to reduce waste and global warming emissions by knowing what's in your trash. Know that if you don't take that extra moment to examine what you are really purchasing, take the extra time to put the right things in your trash, the trash all comes back to you.

"A conservative estimate is that 60 to 75 percent of what's in your trash shouldn't be there."

Yes, it all comes back to you. If you are not patriotic, the effects will come back to you just as your trash comes back to you in the form of pollution that can creep up right to your front door. How does it appear? It appears as litter, water, air and soil pollution, which ultimately affects your health and the health of others around you, including other life forms. Improper handling of waste contaminates the environment and ultimately destroys it.

It is more expensive to clean up the mess than to prevent it, and it costs communities money. Knowing what is trash and what isn't is the first step, taking recyclables to District sites or using free city curbside recycling is the second, and purchasing items made out of recycled materials is the third.

When you're patriotic, you reduce waste of natural resources and the energy, fuel and water that goes into the manufacturing of items by recycling, and you also reduce pollution. A conservative estimate is that 60 to 75 percent of what's in your trash shouldn't be there. Depending on your trash and whether or not you compost, it could be up to 84 percent.

So, be patriotic. When you throw hazardous materials in the trash like paints, automotive fluids and cleaners, they poison the environment. Other hazardous materials include electronics, pharmaceuticals and medical aids and some batteries, which may include heavy metals. Items containing mercury also degrade the environment. These include items such as mercury thermometers, thermostats and fluorescent lighting.

For a complete list of what the District's Hazardous Materials Facility at Central Recycling & Reuse accepts, visit the Web site or call (812) 349-2848. General questions on recycling can be answered at 812.349.2020 or at our Web site.

"Proper earth care is part of being patriotic, and it is part of being a good citizen."

Please think of the meaning of patriotism and how your daily actions reflect that at work and at home and in your recreation choices as well. Are you using disposables or reusable items? What is trash? What are recyclables? What is hazardous? We have the answers but you have the power to be patriotic and protect your country, which ultimately protects your neighborhood, community, county, state and the world. Bring hazardous materials to the Hazardous Materials Facility at Central Recycling & Reuse and bring reusable items and recyclables to one of our five District sites.

Take care of the earth. Know what is trash and what can be recycled or your trash will come back to you, your community, your neighborhood and your front door! Keep the earth healthy and sustainable by practicing patriotism, not just flying that flag on your house or car.

Elisa Pokral can be reached at epokral@mcswmd.org.