Recycling just one part of a cleaner Meridian, Lauderdale County

Dave Bohrer / The Meridian Star

A barrel overflows with a mix of trash and potential recyclables on 22nd Avenue in Meridian.

Drive through a Meridian neighborhood on a recycling day and you will see one or two trash barrels in front of each house, often overflowing with garbage and recyclable goods. You won’t find many recycling bins.

Walk along a downtown or shopping center sidewalk in Meridian and you will find strategically placed trash barrels, some overflowing with both garbage and recyclable goods. You won’t find separate barrels for bottles, cans or paper goods as you might in most other cities in America.

Follow almost any stretch of road in Meridian and Lauderdale County and you will find trash strewn along the highway and fast-food containers and plastic bags mingling among the grass, wildflowers and pines.

Earth Day passed on Monday and Earth Week closes this weekend without much fanfare in our piece of Mississippi.

Many in our community may be numb to the above scenes – both complacent and complicit in the desecration of the Earth God has given us.

Perhaps some believe others were meant to pick up after them and perhaps others believe that land and resources are so abundant that there’s no harm in expanding the landfills or losing the waste among the weeds.

We would like to believe most of our neighbors, however, would be willing to do better at recycling and eliminating the litter if only they were offered more leadership and guidance.

There has been some examples of that leadership, both public and private.

Kyle Rutledge, the District 5 supervisor for Lauderdale County, for example, started a program that allows county residents to drop off recyclables on the last Saturday of the month at the Lauderdale County Agri-Center. He’s been vocal, too, about addressing litter problems in the county.

In the private sector, meanwhile, Betty Lou Jones has been working with the Keep Meridian / Lauderdale County Beautiful group to rekindle interest in recycling, litter control and beautification. Previous efforts tailed off, she noted, after the city and county withdrew funding.

If civic pride isn’t enough to provide incentive to recycle and clean up, both Rutledge and Jones spoke of the economic benefits.

Yielding clean up to the city and county costs money, and an unsightly community discourages businesses from relocating or remaining here. Additionally, filling and expanding landfills is expensive and brings with it unknown potential environmental damages.

Our problems with litter and poor efforts recycling won’t be solved in an Earth Day or an Earth Week. We have some ideas, public and private, to stimulate community efforts.

• Make recycling easier. Add recycling bins to public areas so there are options to dispose of cans, plastic and hopefully glass. It heightens awareness and prevents recyclables from being sent to the landfill. Beyond city streets, this should extend into retail areas, schools, businesses and homes.

• County supervisors, negotiate recycling collection into the next garbage contract.

• Expand recycling to include glass.

• Provide an economic incentive by making garbage collection fees based on quantity disposed. Those who dispose more trash, pay more. Those who recycle more, pay less.

• State lawmakers, add a beverage deposit to encourage returns.

• Promote usable bags in grocery and retail stores and stop providing plastic bags.

• Apartment managers, provide recycling bins.

• Educators, make recycling efforts in schools mandatory and not an Earth Day lesson plan. This would improve the practices of the next generations and send good ideas home.

• Restaurant managers, send your workers out for a one or two block walk daily to pick up litter.

• Increase fines and enforce violations of littering and illegal dumping.

• Promote Adopt-A-Highway programs to area businesses and organizations.

• Pickup drivers, make sure items in your truck bed are secure before driving.

• Pedestrians, pick up trash when you spot it in your neighborhood or a public sidewalk.

• Don’t hit a printout, save a PDF.

Those ideas are big and small steps, encouraging everyone to help. We would be pleased to see more.

As Jones told The Meridian Star: “The health of our community, our environment depends on everybody … we certainly don’t need to have an attitude that this is someone else’s job – it’s everyone’s job.”

Now, go lead.

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