The greening of Suffolk

Published 8:56 pm Tuesday, December 21, 2010

One of the chief goals of those who design recycling programs is for those programs to be widely used by people in the community to maximize the amount of trash that is taken out of the landfill stream. The thinking is that if it’s expensive or complicated to recycle, then most folks will avoid participating, meaning that landfills will fill up more quickly and Earth’s resources will be depleted more rapidly.

When the city of Suffolk began discussing whether to charge residents $12 a month to participate in its new recycling program, it was easy to wonder whether city officials had ever read the memo about how to design a successful recycling program. In Suffolk, it seemed, one could have recycling either easy or free, but not both.

Clearly, the setup is not ideal for guaranteeing maximum participation in the recycling effort. But the city has taken some steps to get more people involved in the effort to save the planet and — more directly — save the landfill.

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One such effort has been Suffolk’s regular recycling drives, such as last weekend’s Holiday Recycling Drive at the old Health Department location on North Main Street. By 2 p.m., with an hour remaining in the event on Saturday, city workers had collected 35 televisions, 105 tires and 4,000 pounds of sensitive documents to be shredded by Cintas.

Surely, getting the electronics and other featured recyclables to the location to be taken away by TFC Recycling took some planning and preparation on the part of those residents who participated. But the fact that so many people made those necessary plans and took those preparations is evidence of a foundational interest in greening up the planet.

Perhaps when it comes time for the city to renegotiate its curbside recycling program with TFC Recycling, city leaders will remember how interest in the concepts has begun to grow through the years and press TFC for a citywide solution to the problem.

Meanwhile, don’t be surprised if city officials spend some time crowing about the Keep America Beautiful President’s Circle Recognition Award they received during the recent Keep America Beautiful conference in Orlando, Fla. The Award recognizes exemplary performance made by certified affiliates of the national nonprofit to reduce litter, minimize waste, recycle and beautify their local communities.

Recycling drives such as the one on Saturday will help ensure that the city holds onto that award next year.