PORTAGEVILLE - "I hate to say it, but we are a wasteful nation," lamented Darrell Brown, Portageville city superintendent. "We throw away anything and everything."
That's the bad news, but there is some good news. Residents of Portageville and more and more communities in Southeast Missouri are starting to do their part for the environment and recycle.
This month, the city of Portageville added a second recycling trailer, locating it at the north end of town where residents can drop off their recyclable No. 1 and 2 plastics, newspapers, cardboard and aluminum cans. The second drop-off expands the town's recycling program which began in 1999.
Brown admits he is pleased by citizen response to the recycling program. "It has been quite successful," he said. "From what I hear we have been a leader in recycling."
According to the city superintendent, Portageville residents put 1,500 to 2,000 pounds of newsprint in the recycling trailer each month and probably about the same amount in cardboard. Each month they recycle some 1,000 pounds of plastics. The amount of aluminum is typically the smallest, since their are sites which pay for aluminum cans; the city recycles about 100 pounds of aluminum each month.
It isn't just the amount of recycling that residents are doing that surprises Brown. He said he is also surprised by who is doing it.
Brown explained he expected younger citizens, who have heard the recycling message all their lives, to be the first to make use of the bins. The city workers even went to the schools to let children know about the recycling program so they could tell their parents. As part of the education campaign, the city ran ads and news articles to promote the program.
"Most of the older people are taking advantage of the program and that surprises me," said Brown. Also he noted he is getting a good response from business owners. Brown has a trailer where businesses bring cardboard cut into flat sheets to be taken to the Pemiscot County Transfer Station, which serves as a recycling center.
The city of New Madrid's program marked its first year of the recycling program in August. Use of the multi-bin trailer is growing steadily, according to city officials.
"We have noticed over the months that we are increasing the number of loads of recyclable material," said City Administrator Furg Hunter. "The city is pleased we are able to offer the opportunity for the public to recycle and we are pleased the citizens are responding. This is a program that is good for the environment, good for everyone."
The New Madrid drop-off trailer, located in the Villa Shopping Center on Route U, has bins for plastics labeled 1 and 2, cardboard, and newspapers. Initially a bin was set aside for aluminum cans, but officials determined many people already recycled cans through local fund-raisers and designated the bin for cardboard, which is typically the first bin to fill.
Hunter noted not only are citizens making use of the trailer but also will call city hall to alert them when the trailer is full.
"Everybody thinks it is a good idea because it's the right thing to do to keep so much from going into the waste stream," said Hunter.
Like Portageville, the New Madrid trailer was funded through a grant from the Bootheel Solid Waste Management District, as a way to reduce the amount of trash going into the landfill.
Dave Dirks, solid waste planner for the Bootheel Solid Waste Management through the Bootheel Regional Planning Commission at Malden, explained the grant funds come from the Solid Waste Management Fund, which is made up of tipping fees charged for each ton of waste disposed of in Missouri landfills or processed through transfer stations that move waste to out-of-state disposal sites.
According to Dirks, Mississippi County is also on board the state's recycling effort with trailers located at East Prairie, Charleston and the prison. Every town with a population of 500 or more in Stoddard County has a recycling trailer along with the cities of Malden, Campbell, Kennett, Hayti, Caruthersville and Steele. In addition to the Pemiscot County Transfer Station, the Sheltered Workshop at Dexter provides recycling services for communities, Dirks said.
"Recycling, like trash pickup should be part of a city's service. If a community wants to have recycling opportunity for its citizens then we will accommodate them," he continued. "This is all non-profit stuff, you don't make money and that isn't what it is for. This is to conserve resources and because it is the right thing to do."
For more information about the Solid Waste Management and recycling contact Dirks at the Bootheel Regional Planning Commission at 573-276-2242, extension 102.