Saturday, January 30, 2016

Hey, we recycle here, too, you know!

I still remember the horror expressed by an Oregon friend who stayed with me for a few days in Colorado, years ago, on realizing that not everyone there recycled. Oh, a lot of people do, but many seem to feel no shame in seeing what they discard heading for the landfill even when other options are available. As I've written before, folks in Eugene tend to recycle avidly, have banned plastic grocery bags, have a cash-back program on beverage containers, and even recycle fallen leaves on a city-wide basis. Many also compost.

So, before coming to Columbia, I did some research. Was rather relieved to find the city had a growing recycling program. Unfortunately, though, the apartment complex in which we live had cancelled their contract shortly before we moved in (on the grounds that the service they had at that point was so limited, it wasn't worth the cost). Everything went in the big trash compactor around the corner. All those bottles and cans, boxes and paper: off to the dump they go!

Much to our delight, recycling returns to Pineview next week. The new service still doesn't take everything and some cleaning and sorting is required, but it's sounds pretty good, and we're working with a company that has a great story.  (I always like that!)

It was more than eight years ago now that Tomato Palms founder Nancy Ogburn read a newspaper story about a previously homeless man who earned enough money collecting and recycling cans to pay the rent on a small apartment. Hmm. She started collecting cans and recycling them, donating the proceeds to a homeless shelter and taking satisfaction not only in helping, in this way, but also in diverting recyclable materials from the landfill.

Over time people began asking her if she could take other kinds of recyclables. A small business was born, built up by Ogburn and her husband, and added a few part-time employees along the way. Now they're growing throughout the region.

The company make the case that often, if a customer really recycles, what they save on garbage hauling and container fees will more than cover the cost of a recycling service. In 2014, Ogburn was named South Carolina Small Business Person of the Year, and the business has won quite a few other awards. Way to go, Tomato Palms.

I did laugh when I asked the manager of our apartment complex to clarify some of the particulars of the new recycling program. She told me that unlike each house having small plastic bins, we'll be given re-usable plastic bags to fill and empty into a "large" container the size of a wheeled trash bin and kept by the complex's trash compactor. I do hope there's more than one! I bit my tongue before telling her that a typical family in Eugene would generally fill such a vessel every two weeks.

We shall see how much Pineview recycles!

There may be a long way to go, of course. See Trash scorecard: Georgia, South Carolina among 'dirtiest' states (Savannah Morning News, 2014).


Paul Merrill said...

I love recycling, and this warms my heart!

Danielle Ortiz said...

When we first moved to Maryland I worked in a very large office complex. I was trying to find the recyle bin in our office and when asked they said, "Our building doesn't recycle." I was horrified. I called the building property managers immediately and asked how we get recycling for the building. They said I would need to have a petition signed by every office in the building. Over my lunch hours I would go around getting signatures. I usually would make a comment that I was from Oregon, need I say more. They would laugh and sign the petition. A little while later we had recycling in our building and they delivered bins to every office. I was a happy camper.