Friday, March 16, 2012

EDITORIAL >> Expand Recycling

Jacksonville, with its high-performance recycling plant and the vast land expanse that once was Vertac and is now relegated to a brownfield, should consider marketing itself as a local leader in Arkansas’ green movement. The plant site received the federal brownfield designation, reserved for land complicated by environmental contamination once it is declared fit for certain types of reuse or redevelopment. Jacksonville chose to reuse the land for its recycling plant and has recently opened a police and fire training facility on the grounds.

Jacksonville sanitation workers make weekly pickups of recyclable materials including aluminum and metal cans, newspaper and magazines, corrugated cardboard and other boxes and plastics labeled 1,2, 3 and PET and HDPT.

We propose that by marketing itself to neighboring municipalities, Jacksonville could establish itself as a leader and innovator in recycling and could help to save the planet for future generations by simply cutting down on landfill use for one, among other positive actions.

Several neighboring cities, including Sherwood and Gravel Ridge, have active recycling programs managed by Waste Management, which carts off the neighboring city’s residential waste each week, sorting it offsite. Some smaller cities, Lonoke and Beebe, for example, have no organized recycling efforts and might be interested in some sort of collaboration.

Jacksonville could also market itself to its neighbors by expanding the process to include spent batteries, paint, household chemicals, irreparable computers and electronics (which are already banned from landfills). We think Jacksonville’s routes should be expanded to include businesses and also to include glass. Handy drop-off containers are located just beyond the gates of the recycling plant and are accessible day and night and weekends. But we would like to see the service expanded to accept glass for recycling.

City officials have said in the past that recycling glass is not cost-effective, would have to be stockpiled and because the landfill (blessed eyesore that it is) is in the city limits, Jacksonville does not pay tipping fees based on weight. This shouldn’t be the deciding factor in our opinion. Rather Jacksonville should look at overall aesthetics and to future generations when even more landfill space will be needed unless some creative solutions are implemented.

Perhaps Jacksonville could consider striking a deal with a glass recycling plant, which might want to relocate here or open a new location. Europe and Mexico recycle large quantities of glass turning it into attractive colored glasses, bowls and plates. It’s a thought. Europeans are eons ahead of the United States in recycling because landfill space there is mostly non-existent.

Jacksonville could kickstart a local market for recycled glass that could possibly be sold at local farmers’ markets and craft fairs. We don’t know what Little Rock is doing with theirs (Sherwood also recycles glass), but we’ve heard it’s just piling up. A Jacksonville glass recycling plant could pull in the product from all over the state.

Jacksonville should think about marketing itself as a centrally-located recycling center and begin to reach out to other municipalities seeking to capitalize on the reduce/reuse/recycle theme. The mantra is in vogue with those in the green movement and those who “think green” but outside of that small minority, recycling is generally complimented as in: “It’s nice that you are recycling your newsprint and aluminum cans,” but is not held to be an estimable activity but rather something that school children hear about in school.

At The Leader, we are active recyclers of waste newsprint and paper that comes back into the plant and also of large amounts of corrugated paper and boxes, for which there is a sizable market. The corrugated product is recycled into such things as insulation, largely replacing fiberglass, which is not only expensive but can cause extensive allergic reactions in sensitive individuals. Repeated exposure can also provoke allergic response in those who have previously been insensitive to the product.

We also suggest that the city expand educational programs in schools and elsewhere educating children and their teachers on the reasons for and benefits of recycling. It’s a concept that is not always considered seriously.

We also would like to see the state implement the cash-back feature on glass bottles already in use in many other states, including Vermont, New York, Maine and Massachusetts.

We know that city officials have protested the recycling effort as not cost effective, but looking into the future, it may be the only way to go.