Letters to the editor: Nov. 13-14

The Shawnee News-Star

'November 15 is America Recycles Day'

Dear editor,

November 15 is America Recycles Day. It’s a good time to reflect on how we all can help.

According to data from the Environmental Protection Agency, less than one in three recyclable items is recycled. Roughly 29 percent of PET plastic, used for products like water bottles and food containers, is recycled. Less than 35 percent of aluminum is recycled. Cardboard shipping boxes are recycled at a 96.5 percent rate. 

A large part of our problem is that recycling is confusing. Some products with the chasing arrows recycling label can’t actually be recycled. Recycling centers take plastic products numbered 1 or 2 (things like water and soda bottles), and increasingly, number 5. And too often those numbers are hard to read. 

Want to make a difference? Find out what products your community recycling center allows. Not all centers accept glass or foam. But anything that can be recycled often is turned into a new use, from furniture to clothing or even road surfaces. All of those cut down on the need for landfills and garbage dumps. We can reduce unnecessary waste and protect our planet one informed person at a time. It only takes a commitment to be one of those persons. 

James Bowers

Managing director of the Campaign for Recycling Awareness (RecyclingFacts.com)

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'TSET’s investment in prevention benefits Oklahoma'

Dear editor,

It’s common knowledge that Oklahoma’s health outcomes rate poorly compared to other states. Those poor health outcomes didn’t happen overnight, and are often the result of habits and behaviors passed from generation to generation. Prevention is a more cost effective way to improve health than treatment, which is why TSET is leading a renewed focus on the youngest Oklahomans and empowering youth to be physically active, eat nutritiously and stay tobacco-free.

In Oklahoma, three behaviors (tobacco use, poor nutrition and sedentary lifestyles) lead to four conditions (heart disease, lung disease, cancer and diabetes) that cause 64% of the deaths in our state. Many of those deaths are premature. Simply put, changing those behaviors will save the lives.

Long-term change in health outcomes doesn’t happen without a steady eye to the future. That requires a focus on the next generation of Oklahomans. That’s why TSET launched the TSET Healthy Youth Initiative last year and continues to roll out new programs aimed at young Oklahomans.

TSET’s new media campaigns warn teens of the dangers of tobacco use and vaping, while the new text-based service My Life, My Quit offers cessation support to teens who are already addicted to nicotine. This fall, Youth Action for Health Leadership started recruiting students to take on a health leadership role in their communities. TSET has partnered with the Oklahoma State Department of Education to help fund teacher training and certification in health education.

There’s more that could be done. Our state lacks a comprehensive smoke-free air law, exposing employees and customers to deadly secondhand smoke. Cities and towns lack the power to create their own tobacco regulations. Too many lack safe and convenient places for physical activity, like parks and sidewalks that can make it part of daily life. Some towns and neighborhoods lack a grocery store selling fresh fruits and vegetables.

Policy changes prompt improvements and help create opportunities to improve the health of Oklahomans. These changes could save lives and save dollars.

Twenty years ago, Oklahoma voters had the foresight to use funds from a lawsuit against Big Tobacco to create the Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust (TSET). Today, TSET is the largest funder of public health prevention programs in the state, from the Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline to health education programs, cancer research to community-based programs.

Improving the health of Oklahomans is our mission. Because of the wisdom of the voters, TSET funding will be available for decades to come, ensuring that we can make long-term investments to improve health for generations to come.

Michelle Stephens

Chair, TSET Board of Directors

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