Former New York Yankees baseball great Yogi Berra is often remembered as the Master of the Malaprop. When asked why he thought attendance at the Kansas City Athletics ball field had fallen off so badly, Berra responded with a classic “Yogism”: “If the people don’t want to come out to the ballpark, nobody’s going to stop them.” Absurd, yes, but he was on to something.

Recycling is a mostly voluntary action, and if people don’t want to participate, how are you going to stop them? Well, you make it against the law not to recycle.

On Oct. 1, House Bill 1465 went into effect. The state law requires recycling of plastic bottles made from polyethylene terephthalate (PET). The bottles are identified by the recycle symbol with the numeral 1 inside and are typically used for water and soft drinks.

Even though it’s illegal to toss plastic soda bottles into landfills, don’t expect a visit from the bottle policeunless you’re a deliberate violator. Blair Pollock, Orange County solid waste planner, said the ban will help the county raise consciousness on recycling. “It saves energy, creates wealth from waste and reduces use of our scarce and valuable landfill space,” Pollock said.

In preparation for the expected flood of plastic bottles, construction of the nation’s largest PET container recycling plant began this year in Fayetteville. Clear Path Recycling, which will begin operations in early 2010, is a joint venture between Shaw Industries Group, the world’s largest carpet manufacturer, and DAK Americas, the country’s second-largest manufacturer of PET resin. Shaw takes PET and turns it into polyester, which is then used in carpeting.

By 2012, Clear Path Recycling will be able to process 280 million pounds of PET a year. Shaw estimates a total energy savings per year of 2.5 trillion BTUs and an annual saving of more than a million cubic yards of landfill space.

Nobody will stop you from recycling, but hopefully your conscience will keep you from tossing that bottle in the trash.