“When the people lead, the leaders will follow.”
If you are serious about sustainability, you won’t spend millions on recycling programs that give citizens the impression that it’s okay to BUY! BUY! BUY!, as long you recycle. Those who are seriously into sustainability will decrease recycling program costs, while increasing citizen commitment to Reduce and Reuse.
Even if your community uses curbside collection, Louise advises you work with end-users (companies making new products from your recyclables) to add a few drop-off centers. They can be places of community pride, as well as a way to relay educational and contamination information directly from the end-users. Drop-off centers are a great cost-effective way to build community pride, while providing end-users with good quality feedstock.
There are key factors in making a drop-off program really successful. You must have citizens involved in the design, creation, and ongoing maintenance of the facility. Citizens need to feel ownership of the drop-off center if you want to continually increase participation rates. The center should be park-like, welcoming, immaculately clean, educational (teaching reduce, reuse, re-purpose, composting, etc.), and very safe for children. To accomplish this you’ll need to tap a variety of talent and age groups. The center must be complemented with a continuing education program for all ages. Education must be implemented well ahead of opening your center.
As more and more communities are struggling to repair and rebuild after super storms, local governments find both their financial and personnel resources stretched thin. In the midst of tragedy, we are seeing an unprecedented volunteer spirit arise across our country, as people load up trucks and head into disaster areas. Citizens are becoming more self reliant, often rolling up their sleeves, alongside visiting volunteers, beginning the clean up process.
There is also a great need for healing experiences as people try to recover from the trauma of losing loved ones, homes, and businesses. I recall the pit in my stomach as I toured Joplin, Missouri after the tornado. The names of streets were PAINTED in the middle of the street, because there was nothing left in sight to identify the neighborhood. I feel humbled never having experienced such horror. Just visiting Joplin was life changing for me.
My passion is building community through waste reduction/recycling. Working on a drop-off center project is a phenomenal way to bring people together. Everyone produces garbage regardless of their socioeconomic status. Getting people engaged in creating something beautiful and long lasting after being hit by a storm could have a powerful healing effect that will ripple through your community.
If you are far enough down the road from the tragedy and can begin to envision what you want for your rebuilt community, I encourage you to reassess the way you think about and handle your garbage and recycling. NOW is the time to reclaim your recyclable resources rather than just trying to get them “out of sight and out of mind.” I invite you to look at the pictures of Recycle Signal posted on the GALLERY page. To learn about our extraordinary education program click on “Articles” in the RESOURCES section of this website. Unfortunately, I left Recycle Signal before it really had sea legs. Those who took over after me were busy raising small children and could not give the kind of time I was able to. The ongoing education program was discontinued. The center is a single stream drop-off site, no longer a park-like educational facility. Nonetheless, Recycle Signal serves as a great case study about what can be done when citizens work in partnership with schools, government, and re-manufacturers.
In the early years of Fayetteville, AR Mayor Lioneld Jordan’s first term, I offered to round up volunteers to clean up the 15th St. Drop Off Center. A business club from the U of A sent about 15 students down to spend nearly 3 hours pulling plastic bags out of trees, cleaning out the little ditch behind the bins, etc. Happy Hollow Elementary students decorated posters. Ozark Natural Food provided lunch. Frou Gallagher interviewed the mayor. Next step…Marion Orton Drop Off Center on North Street! Clean Collection = Marketable Recyclables