Sunday Focus: Recycling program reaches 1-year mark
NATCHEZ — Wayne Spencer wasn’t exactly sure what to put in the blue recycling bin that was dropped off at his Natchez house nearly a year ago.
The bin stayed empty for a few weeks in July 2013 as Spencer slowly began realizing a majority of the items he was throwing away in his trash could go into the bin and be recycled.
Now, Spencer says it’s a rare sight to not see his blue bin overflowing with paper, plastic bottles and other recyclable materials each Wednesday on the curb of his Somerset Drive house.
“It’s really amazing how much stuff you can gather up in that bin that I would have never thought we should have been recycling,” Spencer said. “You don’t really realize how much you’re throwing away until you start putting it all in the recycling bin, and then you start thinking about everything you hadn’t recycled all those years.”
July 1 marked the first anniversary for curbside recycling in the City of Natchez. At the start of the program, each resident that paid for trash service through Natchez Water Works received an 18-gallon recycling bin as part of Waste Pro’s contract for collection and recycling.
Approximately 17 percent of the city’s 6,000 residents recycled on the first day of pickup, and that number has continued growing steadily since the first day.
Since the Natchez program began, curbside recycling has also spread to surrounding areas in the Miss-Lou.
In September, the City of Vidalia will complete its first year of curbside recycling and in April, Adams County began a pilot program offering curbside recycling to 500 households. That program is set to expand to another 500 households in October.
The curbside recycling program together with the drop-off locations are on track to divert more than 500 tons of material from the landfill in its first full year of operation, said Lindsey Shelton, chairwoman of the Green Alliance.
The volume of recyclables recovered in the last year, Shelton said using figures from the Environmental Protection Agency, was able to prevent 684 metric tons of carbon dioxide from being released into the atmosphere, which is the equivalent of taking 144 passenger cars off the road for one year.
“We have been very happy with participation in recycling so far,” Shelton said. “Our initial goals were somewhere between 25 and 30 percent, and we’re there. I’m hoping we can get participation up to about 50 percent by this time next year.”
The key to increasing participation, Shelton said, is more education and outreach throughout the community to ensure people are informed about what they can recycle, when and where and why they should recycle.
“An important part of our education and outreach will involve going into local schools and teaching students about recycling,” Shelton said. “We’re hoping that if we start educating our kids at a young age, it will build strong recycling habits for the future.
“Once more people realize how important and also how easy recycling is, I think they’ll jump on board without hesitation.”
The influence children can have on parents was a driving motivation for Susan Blackburn to begin recycling at her family’s Natchez house.
Blackburn’s children, Liam, Mickey and Matilda, all learned about the benefits of recycling at Cathedral School, and it didn’t take long before her children were asking to recycle at home.