Dalton pushes recycling

By Erin Fuchs
Chattanooga Times Dalton Bureau

DALTON, Ga. — Alderwoman Denise Wood said she’s not a “Dumpster diver” but admitted to rescuing recyclables.

“If I see an aluminum can on the top of the (trash) container, I will pull it out and drop it in the recycling,” she said.

As the city prepares to reduce the days it collects garbage, city officials are urging residents to minimize waste amounts by recycling certain materials.

Waste management officials estimate that 30 percent to 40 percent of trash is actually recyclable.

Norman Barashick, executive director of the Solid Waste Authority, said recycling is “an easy choice.”

“It’s just a matter of breaking that mindset that everything goes into the garbage,” he said.

The City Council agreed last week to cut trash collection from twice to once a week starting May 1.

Public Works Director Benny Dunn said the move will save Dalton about $150,000 a year. “If we can get everybody to recycle, I think everybody can make it (on) one day a week,” he said.

The city has already had a test-run for once-a-week collection. In 2005, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, fuel supplies were dangerously low, Mr. Dunn said. “We were trying to save all the diesel fuel for our fire trucks,” he said.

So, the city moved to once a week collection for two months, which Mr. Dunn said went smoothly.

But city resident Randy Mayfield doesn’t think it was smooth.

He said a “tremendous amount of garbage” piled up during once-a-week pickup.

“Disposable diapers, garbage for a week, is not sanitary,” Mr. Mayfield said. “We’re talking about flies ... maggots.”

Still, Mayor David Pennington pointed out that many cities collect trash only once a week.

And, he said, recycling education will help city residents make the switch to fewer pick-up days.

“They won’t have as much garbage in their can,” he said, “if they’re putting it in the recycling bin.”

About 20 years ago, only one curbside recycling program operated in the U.S. “By 2006, about 8,660 curbside programs had sprouted up around the nation,” according to the Environmental Protection Agency’s Web site.

Ms. Wood, a self-described “master of recycling,” helped pioneer Dalton’s curbside recycling about 15 years ago. “We’re hoping our program becomes more ... widely used,” she said. “It’s just a matter of starting good habits.”