Would you be willing to pay $1 a month to have the city haul away your recyclable items? How about $2? Or $3?
Heck, we probably spend that much money or more in gasoline hauling our old newspapers, office paper, milk jugs, beverage bottles and aluminum cans to the Meredyth Drive recycling center.
One to three bucks a month is all that city public works officials and clean community advocates say it’ll take for our community to have a curbside recycling program.
We think that’s a bargain – and that we can’t afford NOT to have curbside recycling. We think our children and their children deserve it. We love them that much.
According to a recent The Economist article entitled, “The price of virtue,” recycling paper saves 40 percent of the energy required to produce it from virgin timber. Energy savings jump to 70 percent for recycled plastic, and recycled aluminum saves a whopping 95 percent of the energy costs required to mine the metallic element.
Not only do lower energy requirements reduce the associated air pollution, they also mean less demand for fossil fuels such as coal for electricity production and diesel or gasoline for transportation or the operation of heavy equipment.
If more people recycled, this reduced energy demand could have a real impact on the prices for coal, natural gas and refined petroleum products. To put it simply, the more you recycle, the less you might pay at the gas pump. That’s not a point that often enters the conversation when cities are considering a recycling program.
One to three bucks? That’s less than the price of two soft drinks out of a vending machine (or one from a convenience store). That’s a negligible price to pay for better citizenship.
We wondered aloud recently: Why isn’t anyone pushing for a communitywide curbside recycling program? Perhaps it’s because Judy Bowles, who as the Keep Albany-Dougherty Beautiful executive director is our community’s environmental czar and chief recycling proponent, doesn’t think curbside recycling is doable in Albany – not because it’s not a good idea, but because of economic realities.
“Recycling is an issue that every citizen should embrace whether their community is financially able to offer curbside recycling or whether they offer their citizens drop off sites,” Bowles told us. “Recycling conserves natural resources, conserves landfill space, conserves energy, and demonstrates community commitment to preserving the quality of our environment. I am very much in favor of community wide recycling but I must be realistic in my expectations … “
Bowles’ job primarily is educating the public about the virtues of recycling and otherwise preserving the environment. Educators need to be realistic, and Bowles certainly is; curbside recycling requires collection containers, trucks, drivers, gas, benefits for the drivers, maintenance funds for the trucks, and so on. As Bowles says, “Recycling is very expensive.”
Bowles says that the community can have a viable recycling program without curbside pickup. In addition to bringing reusable material from home and work to the city’s recycling centers, Bowles said, the community should ensure that it recycles reusable goods generated at public schools and public facilities such as the Albany Civic Center.
But we say that we shouldn’t stop there. We should find out precisely how much it’ll cost to have curbside recycling – instead of relying on the vague $1 to $3 per household figure that has deterred our community from fully addressing this issue for more than 10 years. And we don’t have to hire a consultant to do that, for goodness sake; let’s just send out a request for proposals and see what we get.
Let’s truly be a city of excellence. Let’s be like Savannah, which recently made recycling the law after negotiating a $1-a-household curbside recycling deal. How did Savannah do it? In what may be the first citizens’ recycling initiative in the state’s history, more than 10,000 residents and 112 business signed petitions insisting on curbside recycling. Apparently, those folks thought that, for their children’s and their environment’s sake, $1 to $3 is just a drop in the, uh, can.
<span style=”font-family: Times New Roman; font-size: small;”><em><img title=”Kevin ” src=”http://thealbanyjournal.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/09/KevinMugrgb-150×150.jpg” alt=”Kevin ” width=”150″ height=”150″ />By Kevin Hogencamp</em></span>