By Madoline Markham
Upon moving from Boston to the 280 area in 2009, Nikki Tropeano was disappointed to learn that Waste Management did not offer a recycling pickup service where she lived in Brook Highland. Resolved to still recycle, she would tote her recyclables to her mother-in-law’s house further down Valleydale Road, where there was pickup service. Then in November she noticed a yellow-topped Waste Management can in front of her neighbor’s house. She quickly learned the can was not for trash but for a new recycling pickup service.
Today Tropeano too has a yellow-topped can for her recyclables. She has taught her step kids, who have always lived in Shelby County and had never recycled, to sort the papers, plastics, and aluminum from their trash. “The kids were quick to pick it up,” she said. “It’s as easy as throwing away garbage and takes no more time than anything else.”
Since October 2010, Waste Management has offered a recycling pickup service for residents in unincorporated Shelby County. This is the first time residents in this area have been offered large-scale recycling pickup, excluding smaller initiatives by local residents. The service provides a 64-gallon can and pickup every two weeks for a $5.06 fee per month. However, only about 10 percent of residents who have trash service have requested recycling pickup.“As residents become more aware of ways to protect and preserve our environment, we are hopeful that more residents will be recycling soon,” said Terri Douglas, Community Relations Manager for Waste Management. Waste Management, North America’s largest recycler, started offering the service for the first time after receiving a favorable response to a 2010 survey to gauge interest.
“I’m surprised not many people are doing it,” said Donna Livesay, who started recycling in October after receiving a notice about it in the mail.
“It’s amazing how much you can recycle,” Livesay said. “Our recycling bin is bulging full now, and it has really cut down on our trash.” She especially likes that she can recycle water bottles and cardboard boxes from deliveries. Forty-four percent of U.S. municipal solid waste is either paper, plastic, or aluminum, all of which the Waste Management service accepts for recycling. Livesay also thinks that the five-dollar fee for the can and pickup service is a “great deal.”
Other subscribers to the pickup service note how simple it is. “I couldn’t imagine it being any easier—you don’t even have to sort it,” said Kristen Russo, who has been recycling for many years. Paper, plastics, and aluminum cans can all be placed in the bin together. Waste Management then delivers it to Alabama Recycling for sorting and processing. There are no local recycling centers that accept glass at this time, Waste Management said.
Russo, who drove her recycling downtown beforehand, also said the service is “such an easy way to care for the environment and feel good doing it with hardly any trouble.”
Jeff Middleton, a Shelby resident of 10 years, had always driven his recycling to a collection site as well. “It was a blessing when I found out we can do it through the pickup service,” he said. “It was a sticky mess to take it to Heardmont [Park].”
When asked about the possibility of more frequent pick-up, a decrease in the fee, and other adjustments to the service in the future, Douglas notes that it depends on the response from the area. “The more residents recycle,” she said, “the more change is likely to happen.”
“280 Living” asked residents and Waste Management, “Why recycle?” The overwhelming answer: every pound of recyclables collected is one less pound of trash that goes into the landfill. “If people really understood growing landfills and the impact [recycling has] on saving the environment,” Middleton said, “they would contribute more. One person can make a difference. One neighborhood can make a difference.”
To subscribe to Waste Management’s recycling pickup service, call 841-2740. To learn more about their recycling program, visit www.thinkgreen.com.