Recycling begins with education, local organizers say

Published 1:26 am Sunday, July 20, 2008

NATCHEZ — Amy Marchbanks throws away 30 dirty diapers, at least three empty milk jugs and approximately 156 pounds of other trash in a week.

But Marchbanks and her family aren’t any more wasteful than any other family in Natchez.

In fact, the Marchbanks family is quite average.

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In a typical month homes and small businesses across Natchez generate approximately 625 tons of trash — and none of it is recycled.

And the typical Natchez family makes about one ton of trash per year, according to statistics from Waste Management, the company that carries the City of Natchez residential contract.

“It’s surprising when you see it like this,” Amy Marchbanks said. “It’s not something a lot of people take time to think about.”

The family of four — with two children under 5 — has so much trash, in fact, Amy’s husband, Ryan, said his Christmas wish last year was for new trash cans.

“I wanted the biggest ones we could get,” he said. “We wore the bottoms out of the other ones.”

And while the Marchbanks family said they would take full advantage of a recycling service, if one were available in the area, Amy said she’s unsure of how many other people would take advantage of the service.

However Waste Management’s Community and Municipal Relations Manager Buford Clark said in areas where Waste Management offers recycling services customers are responding positively.

Clark said areas like Tupelo, Jackson, Clinton and Meridian have and average participation rate of 35 to 45 percent.

Of those areas Clark said Waste Management collects eight to 10 pounds of recyclable materials from each household on its weekly collection.

Of Tupelo, Clinton, Jackson and Meridian Clark said the average household makes between 1.2 and 1.5 tons of trash per year.

Clark said in most instances that number can be reduced to approximately just one ton with recycling.

“There’s a benefit,” he said.

But Clark said in most places the cost of recycling is more expensive than using a landfill and many municipalities opt for the cheaper option.

Clean towns, green towns

And while Natchez has no means of recycling its garbage, other Mississippi cities are a bit more progressive.

Clark said Meridian has had a well-orchestrated recycling program for several years.

Bunky Partridge is Meridian’s Green Team leader and works with city officials to make Meridian more environmentally friendly.

Partridge said when the recycling program first came to the city about five years ago people were excited.

But while Partridge said participation has waned, approximately 50 percent of the city is still involved in the program.

Partridge said to bring a recycling program to a community the community must first be educated on the benefits.

The waste wait

While interest in other towns may have waned, many people in Natchez and Adams County are chomping at the bit to implement a full-scale recycling program.

Birthed out of the Pilgrimage Garden Club, a recycling initiative began and talks were in the works to get something done.

Marsha Colson, a member of the garden club, said she played a part in reactivating the already present recycling committee of the club.

Colson, who used to live both in California and Baton Rouge, is used to recycling.

“Recycling is something very near and dear to my heart,” she said.

She said moving back to Natchez and not having a means by which to recycle was tough on her.

“I got so frustrated,” she said.

So then the talks began within the club. They began brainstorming about ways to implement a program.

She realizes however it’s going to take a large-scale effort.

So, she teamed up with Stephanie Hutchins who is a member of the mayor’s beautification committee, Keep Natchez Adams County Beautiful, which is the local branch of Keep Mississippi Beautiful.

Hutchins said life was breathed into the committee by former mayor Phillip West and is something she believes will continue through Mayor Jake Middleton’s administration.

She said it is key to work with the mayor on the initiative.

“It would have to be a directive that would come from the mayor’s office down,” she said.

She said to make the initiative happen, it would have to take cooperation between the city and county.

Adams County Supervisor Darryl Grennell said that is something he would be more than willing to be a part of.

“It would make a lot of sense, both the county and the city to work together on a recycling program, this is something that is long overdue for our entire community,” he said.

He said a program would not be hard to implement, it would just take some discussion.

Grennell, Hutchins and Colson all dream of an ideal situation where residents could place their sorted recyclables on their curb to be picked up.

“If you make it easy for people it’s more likely to happen,” Colson said.

Grennell said just to begin with a drop off point would be suitable.

“I would like to start at least with a drop off, that way you can begin to educate the public and get it initiated and then gradually get it to a point where it’s a pick up program,” Grennell said.

Education is key, the three said.

“That’s paramount,” Hutchins said.

Grennell said he has faith that if the city, county and the state, which could give grants, worked together everything could easily fall into place.

“With education along with some small funding from the state and the local government making contributions it could easily be done,” he said. “It’s not going to be an overnight that’s for sure.”

But like Colson and Hutchins, he sees a need and wants to follow up on it.

“I’m really ready to see something happen here,” he said.

But even after education, recycling won’t come to Natchez without one thing, Waste Management Manager Jim Funderburg said.

“It’s not going to be Natchez,” he said. “It’s going to have to be a regional thing — Pike County, Adams County, McComb, Summit, Jefferson County, perhaps Vicksburg. Recycling works but you have to take it somewhere; you have to build a recycling center. It’s going to have to be more than just the City of Natchez.”

Natchez Mayor Jake Middleton said recycling is a priority for him.

“I’ve give it a lot of thought,” he said. “It’s something I’m very interested in.”

However, with only a few weeks past his swearing-in, Middleton said he hasn’t had a chance to do the necessary research and talk to what would be key players for a recycling program.

“I haven’t had time to sit down and talk to people but I’ve told them I’m coming to see them,” he said. “It’s just a matter of time, there’s a lot going on in city hall right now.

“It might be a month before I get a chance to sit down with the people I need to talk to.”