Remember The 4th R – RESPECT

By: Lynne Hart

There are some amazing recycling stories, and there are amazing people who recycle.

Our favorite people are those who understand that there are human beings handling their recyclables once they leave them in the bins or trailers. These are the people who are careful to place the correct items in the correct bins and educate themselves on what is and is not recyclable. Yes, the 13 employees who handled over 5 million pounds of materials last year truly appreciate these recyclers.
If you are one of those described above, THANK YOU!

There are some frustrating stories we can also tell. Stories about people stuffing cardboard trailers with household garbage, mattresses, and furniture. Someone once stuffed a television set into the newspaper slot at one of the trailers causing a real problem when employees struggled to remove it. A good rule of thumb is to always remember the person who will handle your items after you leave them. In other words, remember the 4th R – RESPECT.

Here are a few of the items the center sees on a routine basis that ARE NOT recyclable:

• NO swimming pools or pool liners
• NO child riding toys or any molded plastic. BOTTLES AND JARS ONLY.
• NO lawn furniture
• NO medical waste, urine-soaked pads, or diapers (yes, we’ve gotten lots of those)
• NO kitchen, bathroom, or yard trash
• NO mattresses or household furniture
• NO household hazardous waste

As we all know, a few thoughtless people can ruin a good thing for the majority. One example of that would be the recycling trailers that were at Owens School. There are many good people who used these trailers on a routine basis. Even after the school was closed due to the construction of Sugar Creek Elementary, it was not the recycling center’s intention to remove those trailers. Sadly, these trailers were consistently abused by people stuffing garbage in them and using the area surrounding the trailers as a dumping ground for items that were clearly not recyclable.

The Athens-Limestone Recycling Center is a not-for-profit operation under the umbrella of Keep Athens-Limestone Beautiful. Our plant manager, Ruby McCartney, works hard to run a tight ship. It is difficult to do that when employees spend half of their time sorting garbage out from the recyclables and hauling trash that is truly not the responsibility of the recycling center. The trash that is sorted out from these trailers often ends up in the recycling center’s dumpster, which costs the center each and every time that dumpster has to be serviced.

Sadly, the decision had to be made to remove the recycling trailers from Owens Elementary because of the abuse. It was not possible to justify the time and expense of cleaning them out nearly every week they were serviced.

Ruby and all of her staff appreciate true recyclers who use the bins and trailers as they were intended.

The most used trailers are located at East Limestone High School. The number of trailers has increased from two to eight! As hard as the center tries to accommodate the needs of each community, there are still people who are not happy. There have been recent complaints that the trailers at East Limestone are never serviced. The truth is, each trailer is serviced at the very beginning and at the end of each week. This means that with eight trailers in that location, the area is serviced 16 times per week. Since the trailers are heavily used on weekends, it may appear that they haven’t been serviced by Sunday evening. When we have high winds and people forget to close the compartment doors, items blow out. When we have heavy rains, sometimes there are puddles around the trailers. These things cannot be controlled by the center staff, yet complaints are received by unhappy people.

Best Practices

• Break down your cardboard so the trailers will not overflow.
• Do not place items that cannot be recycled in or around the trailers/bins
• Close the lids after placing your recyclables into the community collection center trailers.
• Report abuse – provide tag number and time of day and what you witness

Thank Center Staff

The staff at the recycling center work hard and sometimes the complaints are all they hear. If you see center staff when using any of the collection centers, let them know they are appreciated. Your positive comments will make their day!
By: Lynne Hart