Recyclers finally getting the message?

A recent trip out to Atmore’s recycling center revealed a surprising development in the city’s effort to maintain a decent area to which locals can bring their cardboard, newspapers and other items that can be recycled, restored and prepared for reuse.

At first I thought I had gone to the wrong place. There was little ground clutter, no bags of household garbage scattered about, no cans of paint hastily discarded at the base of the dumpsters used to hold the reusable material.

What a change from just a couple of weeks ago, when dozens of cardboard boxes and shipping containers, very few of them flattened to make room for more, overfilled each bin and spilled onto the ground. Plastic bags with discarded food, dirty diapers and other items combined to create a noxious odor that permeated the area, and cans of plasticized paint were fairly abundant.

On my most recent visit, a couple of the recycling receptacles were filled to the brim with cardboard, but most people had followed proper protocol and flattened the boxes. There were still two or three discarded television sets, but nothing else carelessly tossed onto the turf.

I’m not sure what prompted the difference, but I would be willing to bet the farm that a major factor was the center’s new hours of operation (7 a.m. – 4 p.m., Monday through Friday). Based on the most recent trip out East Ridgely Street to the city’s recycling bins, I would guess that most of those who had been improperly using the recycling center had been doing so under cover of darkness or on the weekend, when fewer people might see them.

Was it the threat of an increase in the monthly garbage collection fee that prompted the turnaround? Most folks, even those who couldn’t care less that we are turning the Earth into a huge garbage dump, will change their stripes if the status quo threatens their pocketbooks. Or was it just a bout of social consciousness that suddenly evolved when published photos raised awareness of the mess that was being made of the recycling center?

Recently, Sherry and I were talking about the problem, and fearing the situation may not have improved, she suggested a column titled, “What part of recycling do folks not understand?”

Apparently, the recycling message is finally getting through. For whatever reason or reasons, more people seem to understand what is at stake. Right now, the original plan is working. It’s up to each of us to make sure it continues to work.