DECATUR — The covid-19 pandemic affected more than just restaurants and other small businesses.
The recycling industry took a big loss due to the pandemic, forcing companies to shut down pickup in many area towns. But Decatur worked out a deal that would continue the recycling program that many area residents and businesses used on almost a daily basis.
Mayor Bob Tharp received a correspondence dated Aug. 26 from Wendy Bland, director of the Benton County Solid Waste District, stating the recycling program in Decatur will be discontinued Sept. 4.
“We are saddened and deeply regret that the Solid Waste District no longer has funding available to provide the free recycling trailer service,” Bland wrote. “It was not caused by the District and is not something that we have control over. This was a sudden blow to our budget that was completely unexpected. We had very little notice ourselves in which to develop a plan and therefore even less time available to give notice to the cities. We have deeply appreciated the city of Decatur being our partner for so many years and providing the space for the trailers!”
The Benton County Solid Waste District lost $230,000 in projected revenue in 2020, forcing the district’s board of directors to approve huge budget cuts which, unfortunately, caused Decatur and other area municipalities to lose their recycling programs.
Recycling is not a unique concept exclusive to the late 20th and early 21st centuries. In fact, recycling is almost as old as a thousand years ago when manufactured goods were not readily available and people had to use items over and over again,
During World War II, wood, iron, aluminum, brass and other everyday metals were recycled into tanks, jeeps, airplanes and even battleships. In the ’50s and ’60s, newspapers were recycled during regular school recycle drives. As resources began to dwindle and trash began clogging up landfills across the country, many state and local governments began pushing the public to recycle more than just papers but bottles, old tires, old asphalt and all sorts of discarded items to find a new life as notebooks, cardboard boxes, etc.
The Solid Waste District came up with a local solution by offering the city the loan of two trailers, one for cardboard and one for paper, glass, bottles and plastic containers. The city would take over the responsibility of hauling the material to a recycling facility elsewhere in Northwest Arkansas.
Tharp, a strong believer in the recycling program, went to work to find a solution to this problem.
“I am charting a new process for the city as I merely dream of how we can continue supporting this worthy venture,” Tharp stated. “I believe in landfill-free status and have experience with this at my full-time job, so naturally I want my city to be landfill-free.”
After contacting several area recycling businesses, Tharp worked out a deal with Marck Recycling in Avoca to take all of Decatur’s recyclables. The downside of this plan is that the city would have to use one of its city trucks and a worker to haul these trailers to the unloading facility.
Tharp is still working out several details of this new city program but, for now, the trailers are still under Benton County Solid Waste District control and the recycling program will continue on its present course. Once he has the details worked out, the plan will have to go to the city council for final approval.
The city also introduced a new service that recycles old clothes. The green boxes were put in place in mid-September and are now taking donations.
Mike Eckels may be reached by email at [email protected] .