Our view: recycling program reduction is a crying shame

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“Recycling Works in East Alabama.” Or so says the radio advertisement of the East Alabama Recycling Partnership. But apparently not in the city of Opelika, despite Opelika’s membership in the EARP.

Any city today that wants to be known as “progressive” – and what city doesn’t? – has a recycling program. Our nearest neighbor, Auburn, not only has a recycling program but also has curbside pickup. Columbus, Ga., has, within the past year, opened a new $8.5 million recycling facility to greatly expand its already successful recycling program.

Both these cities say their recycling programs make money. According to Columbus Public Works Director Pat Biegler, “Last year (2012), we made $250,000 off recycling. We could be looking at $2.5 million or more in the future.”

Opelika, on the other hand, is losing money on its program. Last year (2013), Opelika estimates a net loss to our recycling program of $126,000 (cost to city, $150,000, less $24,000 return). Why?

We currently have five drop-off points, one in each of the city’s wards, and accept paper, plastic, aluminum cans, steel/tin cans, glass and cardboard.. The city announced tentative plans to cut back to one drop-off point, at Jeter Street in the southeast part of the city; in today’s “Observer” story, a second drop-off point was announced as being considered in recognition that most of the recycling occurs in the northern part of the city. The city has also announced that, effective Oct. 1, no glass will be accepted for recycling.

The city says it wants to increase Opelika’s recycling program and that the announced reductions are preparatory “… to expediting our process and making it more efficient.”

We disagree. You don’t go backward in order to move forward. We think that reducing the program to the extent proposed will take months, if not years, to recover.

Many Opelikans feel passionately about the need for recycling. Why not give the community the opportunity to be heard in a public forum on recycling? Don’t the city departments exist to serve the citizens? Let’s give those citizens a voice on this important issue.

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