By Alison Murtagh
Citizens of Lexington and Rockbridge County came together Wednesday to celebrate America Recycles Day, an initiative of Keep America Beautiful, during an afternoon full of games and education.
The day has been celebrated nationally for 20 years, but the event on Hopkins Green was the first ever in Lexington. The celebration came shortly after the city and Rockbridge County decided to be partners in a new regional solid waste authority, which should go into effect within the next few months.
Jake Adams, the Community Education and Outreach Coordinator for Rockbridge County, said the event helped to promote the recycling programs in both the city and the county, as well as give residents an opportunity to ask questions.
“We really wanted to seize this opportunity to use that national initiative and promote that day in a way that really also emphasizes specifically what we have going on in our hometown, and just to demonstrate the ongoing and continuing collaboration between Lexington and Rockbridge County moving forward,” Adams said.
Lexington Mayor Frank Friedman presented a proclamation establishing Nov. 15, 2017, as America Recycles Day in the city.
“It’s just an exciting time to renew people’s awareness of recycling and the importance of recycling so that we have less cost associated with what’s going into the landfill that’ll be there forever,” Friedman said.
The celebration comes on the heels of a revamping of the city’s recycling program. Meredith Warfield, a support specialist for Lexington’s Planning and Development Department, said that the city just began recycling glass this summer, and that new recycling carts and glass-only recycling totes were distributed to businesses and citizens.
The city hopes recycling will become a habit, not a hassle
According to data gathered in July and August, only 22 percent of households on average recycle in Lexington. Warfield said they want to increase the participation rate to 40 percent of households by 2020.
In order to reach these participation rates, children will need to be involved, she said.
“It’s starting from that sort of young level, and kids encouraging their parents to change their ways,” Warfield said.
Adams echoed the notion that recycling as a normal habit can start with the city’s youth.
“Developing those habits at a young age I think will carry over into your adult life,” Adams said. “So it’s very important that we have an outreach commission and an outreach program geared towards the youth so they can start to develop those habits and get this information at such an early age.”
A mobile outreach classroom, nicknamed “LIVE” for Limit your Impact, Value the Earth, was on site at the event to promote environmental education.
“We have been taking this around to schools over the past year or so, promoting our recycling program,” Adams said. “It’s a mobile outreach trailer which uses technology and display boards to allow people to explore recycling, the very services we offer.”
People in attendance were encouraged to take a pledge to recycle, and were able to take a picture with the organization’s very own Recycle Man.
Emily King and her children participated in the event.
“I have twin 4-year-olds and I just wanted them to see that recycling is not something we do only at home, but it’s a shared community value, and it’s something that’s celebrated by the entire Rockbridge community,” King said.
Although the year was attached to the proclamation, Warfield said members of the organizations hope to continue the event for years to come.