The Recycling Lowdown in Effingham, IL

~Update 11/30/2016~ Startup Effingham, a new legal service for small businesses, which is owned by Sarah Ruholl is spearheading a committee to tackle the recycling issue.  Read more about it here.  

~Update 09/2016~ The Mayor's blog post is on the city's website.  Very vague.  Like I said, I think regular contact with the city is going to be in order.  And we'll see if he answers the questions posed there. 

There was a great turnout last night (August 24, 2016) at the special town hall meeting on recycling in Effingham, IL.  Standing room only, in fact.

Mayor Bloemker opened the meeting by saying this is an issue he has repeatedly been asked to look into and City Administrator Jim Arndt invited people to speak freely but to please respect one another.   The crowd consisted mostly of people over the age of 60, with some of us youngsters standing in the back and in the hallway.  Representatives from Sanitation Service, Sutter Disposal and a couple of recycling centers (mostly of metals) from the area were also there to share their thoughts. 

One after another attendees shared not only their desire to be able to recycle in Effingham, but also their frustration over the fact that it’s 2016 and the only place to take some household recyclables is the Centenary Methodist Church.  Many people, some with Chicago accents, shared that they’ve never lived in a place without a recycling program until they moved to Effingham.  Heck, even Mattoon and Charleston have curbside recycling.  And Altamont and Teutopolis have their own community-run programs.  Man, how did we get so far behind the eight ball on this one?

All in all the feeling is that we need to get up to speed and do something.  But what?  One of the contingent from the church, Mr. Elving, stated that his background is in recycling and we must understand that there is no money to be made in the collection of recyclable materials.  So basically, addressing this issue is going to have to fall into the hands of the city or county.  He generously offered to assist the city, for free, in getting something up and running.  Thank you, Mr. Elving.

The idea of curbside pickup was bandied about but in a town where trash pick-up is a private affair, asking the city to start such a program would not only take time but also a lot of money it doesn’t have.  However, there was a man with some interesting funding options, as well as a very well known (but not to me) Mrs. C. who gave out a website of a very avant garde recycling program funding scheme.  Perhaps this website will be on the mayor’s blog post about this meeting.

It was enlightening to hear about the program at the Methodist church.  A large contingent from the church was there and a very well-spoken representative among them explained how it all worked.  They have separate recycling bins in their parking lot and every couple of weeks Sanitation Service hauls them away to some recycling station.  The church pays Sanitation Service roughly $400 per month to do this.  According to the Sanitation Service owner, who later spoke, this doesn’t even begin to cover the real cost involved in doing that job, however they are happy to do it for them at a deeply discounted rate as a community service.   Go local business! 

Here’s a little noteworthy factoid - garbage trucks average 3 to 4 miles per gallon.  Just wrap your mind around that.  Nutso. 

But here’s the clincher and this is why I haven’t bothered to stop by the church to see what they accept.  The church spokeswoman acknowledged that the church is ready to stop offering this service.  Now that the Kluthe recycling program shut down they are more swamped than ever and bins fill up quickly.  And this really shouldn’t be their cross to bear.  Sorry, I couldn’t resist.

They did say that if another church or business could put a similar recycling bin elsewhere in the city that would help alleviate some of their burden.  This, to my layperson ears, seems like the best stop-gap approach.   That is if we don’t want to start a Kickstarter campaign to raise the $20,000+ needed to get the Kluthe recycling program up and running for another year, which would buy the city/county time to formulate and implement a more permanent plan.  I, for one, was a Kluthe frequenter as they did not require sorting of recyclables.  Yes, people need to be educated about recycling but I think we should also work to make it as simple as possible, if possible. 

So, long story short.  This meeting was a start.  Do we have a new place to take our recyclables?  No.  Is there a plan in sight.  Not really.  So what can we do in the meantime?

If you’re like me and my family you cringe every time you put a recyclable into the garbage bin.  And if you’re like me and my family the amount of recyclable materials you generate far outweighs your actual garbage. 

So here’s my plan.  As the owner of Sanitation Service pointed out the best way to recycle is to simply reduce your waste from the get-go.  Consider the packaging involved in the things you buy and reuse stuff.  Being an avid thrift store shopper and lover of vintage I feel like I have the reuse part down. 

I do need to make that mental shift in how I shop and how I choose what I buy.  For instance, I will try to haul myself out of bed and into town early enough on Saturday to buy what I can from the farmer’s market.  And I’ll see if instead of the plastic box of lettuce at Aldi maybe I can find the same amount in a bag.  Not the best fix, but it’s something.  Considering most of our recycling consists of glass bottles and plastic jugs I’d love to find a means to refill those items (milk, juice, etc.).  Or eliminate some of them altogether.  A girl can dream. 

Lastly, let me share with you a conversation I had with a fellow standing next to me at the meeting.  He overheard me lamenting the amount of paper that comes home with my kids from school.  He said paper is a commodity, like corn, and it is renewable.  And most likely a fair percentage of the fiber content of the paper the school uses is from recycled material.   Note to self: confirm this with the PTO. 

He said what we should be much more concerned about is what goes into the cell phone we buy new every two years whether or not our old phone is still functional.  Cell phones contain rare earth metals.  Elements that are taken from the earth that can never be replaced.   Same for cars.  These items have a much larger impact on our environment and we need to stop looking at them as disposable items.

Long story short, watch the mayor’s blog for the way forward.  As interested citizens we all need to keep a close eye on this topic and make sure something happens soon.  That means exercise your duty as a citizen of this community and contact the city and see what’s up. 

-Joanna

// Next stop in this space will be a much-anticipated collaboration with internationally renowned local photographer, Tytia Habing, and the beginning of what will be a regular peek inside the homes of local people.  Stay tuned.