Editorial: Re-do recycling — City Council would be wise to bring curbside program to Anniston
by The Anniston Star Editorial Board
Jun 11, 2013 | 3010 views |  0 comments | 110 110 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Photo: Special to The Star
Photo: Special to The Star
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Back in the day, Anniston’s tryst with curbside recycling ran hot: 9,000 blue, plastic bins distributed across town in a haze of earthy good will. Then the love affair fell victim to a foul-smelling mix of economics, euphemistic cries of tax increases and local politics on Gurnee Avenue.

The tryst petered out. Participation lagged. City Hall wallowed in a wading pool of indecision. And Anniston’s 1993 attempt at curbside recycling lasted just two years.

Everybody lost: the city, its politicians, its residents — and the environment.

Now the City Council is considering reviving the program, a move that, we hope, Annistonians will embrace with more vigor than they did two decades ago.

Put another way, it is so 20th century that Anniston does not have curbside recycling in 2013. Our message to City Hall: Do it, but do it right.

That’s not as simplistic as 1-plus-1-equals-2. All sorts of bureaucratic details can gum up the works and turn an obvious no-brainer into what it became in 1995 when a former council voted to kill the program — a man-made mistake.

Oh, it didn’t have to be that way, though veteran watchers of Anniston government could see the coming strife when participation (30 percent) fell well short of the city’s expectation of 50 percent. Data showed that Golden Springs, the 10th Street corridor and Lenlock had a higher participation than neighborhoods in south and west Anniston. Naysayers complained that it was too much trouble to tote the blue bins to the curb.

Officials said curbside recycling drained the city’s coffers to the tune of nearly $170,000 a year. In 1994 — just one year into the program — a city official told The Star that it cost Anniston about $660 a ton to recycle through Browning-Ferris Industries, but only about $70 a ton to collect trash and dump it in a landfill. If more than 1-in-3 Annistonians recycled, the process would be less expensive to the city.

Alas, that didn’t happen. And in the fall of ’95, amid low numbers and rising landfill costs, the council voted out curbside recycling, citing, in part, a reluctance to raise the per-household cost of recycling an extra $1.41 a month.

That was then.

Today, the council should move forward in a business-like manner, quick but careful. The city needs a fair contract with its trash-service provider. More important, the council must become both the program’s cheerleader and the people’s educator. Some will buy in immediately. Others won’t — and their participation may decide whether this attempt at curbside recycling works. Repeatedly, until it sticks, the council has to sell a concept to those indifferent about the earth or too inconvenienced to bother.

Recycling was right then, and it is right now. It’s time to make it happen.
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