A win for recycling

Published 11:22 pm Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Recycling has a checkered history in Suffolk. Perhaps it’s not surprising that it never has taken off here, considering that residential trash disposal has only recently come at a cost. For the most part, the only thing driving most residents to recycle until recently was an environmental conviction.

Now that homeowners pay for recycling containers, things have changed for many Suffolk residents. There still is no obvious, tangible incentive to cut the amount of trash the average homeowner sends to the regional landfill, but the fact that each home pays for a recycling container means most folks will use it. In fact, a drive through just about any Suffolk neighborhood every other trash day confirms the theory: Where there used to be only the green garbage containers waiting in front of each house, now can be found many blue containers, as well.

Suffolk is picking up, albeit slowly and begrudgingly, on the idea of recycling. Folks can disagree over whether city leaders handled the transition well, whether the charges for the program are fair and whether it’s designed well, but one unavoidable fact is that wherever recycling has been made simple, it has become more popular. That’s one reason, in fact, that it was a mistake for Suffolk to remove the bulk recycling containers that had been located at sites around the city. Having them at those sites made recycling convenient for those in apartment complexes that didn’t get the blue containers.


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In the same vein of making recycling easy, the city is doing something very right with its quarterly recycling drives. Each of the drives has given residents a chance to bring bulk recyclable materials — and often materials that could not be recycled otherwise — to be taken care of for free. Previous events have collected electronic equipment and various hazardous materials in addition to the normal recyclables.

On Saturday at Bennett’s Creek Park, city officials will be joined by a variety of recycling companies, including one they’ve never had at one of these events, which will collect polystyrene foam, like Styrofoam. This is an especially good thing, as it’s estimated that 30 percent of the total solid waste volume dumped in landfills is polystyrene, and polystyrene is a material that takes an extraordinarily long time to break down in nature.

Carrying your old polystyrene packing materials to the recycling event might not be as easy as throwing them into the trash, but doing so can help make a big difference to the environment and will contribute to keeping the landfill open a little bit longer. Both are goals that everybody in Suffolk should share.