Every Wal-Mart location was asked to take up the company's Personal Sustainability Program. Employees were encouraged to begin recycling - tossing their soft drink cans in the aluminum recycling bin in the employee lounge, placing old newspapers in another. When the bins filled, the recyclables were added to the bales of cardboard already put together at the store and shipped out for recycling.
Also employees were also asked what they would do to help to make a difference in their world, then wrote those sentiments on an outline of a hand. These "helping hands" are posted near the break room for others to see and serve as reminders that improvement in the world begins with each individual.
It was a small step for the Sikeston Supercenter.
But it was during a committee meeting in April that employees decided to take a bigger leap. Terri Sparks, a department manager at the Sikeston store, recalled the committee agreed the community was in need of a more convenient recycling program.
Sparks began making calls to find out how other communities had established programs. Soon she was in contact with the Stoddard County Sheltered Workshop which works with communities throughout Stoddard County as well as some in Mississippi and New Madrid counties to recycle.
The Workshop agreed to provide a trailer with bins for each accepted recyclable item. There are sections for aluminum cans and for steel cans which must be cleaned and the labels removed, along with a section for plastics which must have a triangle with a No. 1 or No. 2 on the containers showing they can be recycled. Also there are sections for cardboard and one where newspapers, magazines and even phone books and paperback books can be placed for recycling.
"We told them we would give it a try," said Joy Lynn Robinett, recycling manager for Stoddard County Sheltered Workshop. "We set it up to see how it would work out and it has worked out very well. The citizens of Sikeston have taken to it real well."
Since the white trailer was first located in the corner of the Wal-Mart parking lot just across from the McDonald's, its use has steadily increased. Currently, the Workshop is bringing an empty trailer and hauling away a filled one about twice a week. The trailers are taken back to Dexter where Sheltered Workshop employees empty it, separate the recyclables then ship them out.
According to Robinett the increased interest in recycling and such partners as the Sikeston Wal-Mart ensure the Sheltered Workshop employees stay busy year-round. And there is a real benefit for communities.
"It helps keep the community clean and everything won't go to the landfill," she said.
As for Wal-Mart, Sparks pointed out any proceeds from the recycling go to the Workshop.
"Our only benefit is the satisfaction," said Sparks. "Our goal is to recycle and we were thinking maybe this way we could kick start more recycling in the community."
Sparks said customers quickly noticed the recycling bin and remarked to Wal-
Mart associates about the program and how pleased they were to find a recycling bin available. Associates as well have made use of the bins, she added, noting they are bringing their recyclable items from home to the bin.
"People have said they would be more prone to recycle if it is closer and readily available," noted Susan Kennard, training coordinator, who has worked with Sparks on the project.
The regional and district Wal-Mart leaders are pleased by the Sikeston store's effort. Sparks has even been on conference calls with other Wal-Mart stores to explain their local project.
There is also an effort to make everyone aware of the importance of recycling. There are signs in the employee lounge and in the store with information such as just recycling one aluminum can can power a personal computer for 10 hours.
The Sikeston Wal-Mart employees have also taken the lead on another project to benefit their customers. Kennard explained the store has individuals who will get their exercise by walking inside the Sikeston business so the employees decided to build an outdoor walking track.
The project, which is being done by employees who volunteer their labor and time, will be located on land adjacent to the store. The path is laid out and piles of dirt stand where part of the track is dug, however recent triple digit temperatures have stopped the work which will restart later this fall.
The store employees hope to have trees and picnic tables donated as part of the walking track area. Kennard estimated the track should be completed and ready for public use next spring.
"It is the little things that in the long run are going to make a difference," remarked Kennard.
Added Sparks: "We need to recycle. We need to pay attention to what we are doing. If we don't pay attention then what will be here for our kids and grandkids?"