Where Are the Recyclers in Huntington?

Every Tuesday night it is the same question: “Is it paper, or bottles and cans?” Wednesday morning the trash collectors come by quite early to collect the week’s recycling. In Huntington this collection alternates between paper and cardboard one week, and mixed plastic, metal and aluminum the following week. Given my short memory I have to check the calendar each week to find out which container to carry to the curb.

I often have meetings on Tuesday nights so on my way home from the church I look to my neighbors to see which items they have placed at the curb. This saves me from trying to find the recycling calendar. Unfortunately, this is sometimes difficult, because many of my neighbors do not recycle. My informal survey driving through Centerport at 9:30 on Tuesday nights is that about 40% of homes seem to put out recycling. Either that, or they are even later than I am and put out their bins at midnight.

This is a very unscientific survey and I know that we often will skip a week and then put out more in the coming weeks, but still it seems like a poor effort at recycling. It was then with surprise that I saw a press release from the Citizens Campaign for the Environment (CCE) that gave the town of Huntington an “A+” on their 2009 Long Island Recycling Report Card. The report assigns letter grades to the recycling efforts of all the towns on the island. The full report may be viewed at http://www.citizenscampaign.org/PDFs/2009LIRecyclingReport_web092209.pdf.

The seeming discrepancy between my observations and the CCE score is because we looked at different ends of the process. They rate what the town offers, I observe what the residents actually do. In its program our town does a very good job. We have the curbside recycling, a drop off place for hazardous waste, electronics and other items, and this past year they expanded recycling in schools and at town parks and beaches. They also commended the town for their composting program and battery recycling among other efforts.

All the town programs in the world will never work if, we, the citizens do not take advantage of them. CCE reports that only 25% of Long Islanders actually participate in recycling. This falls far short of other areas of the country with 60% participation. It is clear that recycling not only helps the environment, but also saves our town’s money in waste disposal and increases employment. Recycling is an effort that should appeal to all of us, regardless of political viewpoint. Researchers find that the main reasons people do not recycle is that it seems inconvenient, takes too much space, takes too much time or is confusing.

Some of the reasons for not recycling can be addressed with better communication about the process and the benefits to the community. CCE gives Huntington an “A+” for their programs, I would give them a “C” for publicity. There can obviously be much more promotion of the recycling opportunities.

The far greater problem is lies not with government, but with individuals. We can help the environment. We can save taxpayer money. We can create more jobs. We just need to do more recycling. This is a great example of the possibility of personal effort to help a communal problem. It begins with us, each one of us.

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