Recycling: Home and Away

We know that we can suffer from broken record-ism here at Lost in Montgomery. On occasion we find topics like recycling and just keep going on and on about them to the chagrin of our loyal corps of readers who tune in, not for leftist tree-hugging political harangue, but for updates on the latest issue of Dixie Living or Montgomery Parents. Well, so be it. If you’re looking for inspirational craft tips or ways to combine your loves of scrapbooking, coupon-cutting, and Jesus, there’s plenty to be had on the rest of the Alabama Internets.

We’ve said it before: Montgomery’s “recycling program” is a joke. We used to have curbside pickup, but nobody used it and very little of it was actually recycled. So instead, the Mayor proposed that the city adopt a long-term strategy where its waste products would be dealt with by a bouncy castle made of Moon Pies, half a dozen used Slinkys attached to industrial strength flame throwers, and the original Broadway cast of Phantom of the Opera a “plasma plant.”

While we’re busy holding our breath(s) for the end of the one year “feasibility study” that may or may not result in a multi-year program to build this facility that may or may not work, we still have stuff to recycle. We have put off (until now) a trip to the city’s recycling drop-off points for a few reasons. First, we are fortunate that a good fairy takes some of our recycling to Troy — a nearby city much smaller than ours which still manages to have a curbside recycling program without going broke. Second, we were pretty mad that the city now only takes cardboard and paper – no more plastic recycling at city facilities. Also, we have a storage shed.

However, with a whole spate of unexpected home repair involving things arriving at our house in preposterously large boxes, we decided to hit our local city drop-off point. It is at Bellingrath Junior High. Here is what it looks like.

Seriously. It’s an open air bin. Unclear on why this requires special “recycling hours” only available certain times of the week for a few weeks out of the month. And in the middle of the day, it was still a little sketchy, what with tons of broken windows, litter, and gang graffiti nearby.

On Sunday we had to make a trip to Birmingham. We loaded the trunk of the car with glass (marginally reducing our storage room) and went by the Alabama Environmental Council recycling facility. AEC are good people doing good work in a state where caring about the environment is usually seen as a character failing or a pastime for the rich, white, and indolent. Also, the AEC recycling facility is awesome. Also it takes glass – one of only two places in the state we’re aware of (and we have not yet visited the place in Auburn we’ve been told about).

It’s easy to look at these pictures and do the usual Montgomery-bashing thing. Like the waitress who served us our lunch recently – when we told her we were from Montgomery, her reaction was basically the same as if we had told her that we’d just finished eating our own poop. We are unwilling to join the fatalists murmuring, “oh, that’s just so Montgomery” after every municipal face-plant and absurd crime spree. Hell, at least we didn’t lose our shirt playing roulette getting a sewage treatment plant. And the “That’s so Montgomery” strategy is too often deployed as a way to forgive any number of municipal failings and mishaps (not to mention racism).

But seriously. Why can’t we just have a recycling program that works like other cities? Why do we have to go to Birmingham to recycle our glass? And why, if our current strategy is “do it yourself because we aren’t going to pick it up from your curb,” can’t we figure out something better than the arbitrarily time-limited set of drop-off locations scattered across the city?

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6 responses to “Recycling: Home and Away

  1. Just a reminder that Mt. Scrap (which is 24/7) will take 1,,2, and 3 plastics.

    I brought up recycling at the last Garden District meeting and I’m trying to get them interested in agitating on that subject. I’ve also been pushing Martha Roby to bring up the idea of pay-to-play curbside recycling (which Prattville is investigating).

  2. “Pay” is a four-letter word around here.

    And would paying for recycling be subject to the 10% sales tax?

    • Recycling is too big of a lifestyle change for the people of Montgomery. Besides, we live in a country and city that believes it only has to be “Green” once per year…sad current state of affairs.

      • Kyle, I’m sure you’re correct with your lifestyle fatalism about Montgomery. Tiny Troy, just 45 minutes away, has a top notch and award winning curbside pickup that supports a fairly robust recycling program. I can’t speak to participation statistics, but it’s obviously working well enough for the city to keep making it a priority in the solid waste budget. And for many cities around the nation, recycling is actually a money-making program. Give the people of Montgomery some credit. They’ll participate in the program if it’s well-funded, simple, and accompanied by some ongoing public education efforts.

  3. Imagine a city waste program where:

    – Waste Management charges those that create most non-recyclable material through use of bar code readers.

    – Waste is picked up every two weeks to cut down on gasoline use.

    – Recycling material can be placed in containers sorted as paper and all other (plastic, metal, and rubber). This material is picked up once per month to cut gasoline use.

    – Each neighborhood has a glass collection point (clear, green, and brown).

    – The recycling material is then sorted by waste workers and sold back to corporations.

    This is not a far fetched way of living. I lived this way for seven years and felt better for it at the end of the day.

    However, I know this is more than most folks want to manage. Change is uncomfortable, but so is paying the city to come to my house three times per week because the majority refuses to recycle.

  4. Target is now accepting glass in in-store bins for Target customers. Their delivery trucks transport the glass to Huntsville where their distribution center is located and where, I have been assured, there are facilities for glass recycling. Target is not really set up for a massive influx of glass, but each time I have taken my shopping bag full of glass, there has been room in the bin.
    For all those readers interested in municipal recycling and waste disposal, Annie Leonard’s book “The Story of Stuff” is a must read. It is a very sobering indictment of our nation’s wasteful ways, but she does offer glimmers of hope.

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