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Alton partners with local schools in recycling

20110923 SISD HERO-Recycling CAB 066Recycling is becoming more and more popular, especially in bigger cities, but some small cities are taking part in the recycling business as well. While some Valley cities are just getting started, others have been working their recycling program for years.

City of Alton has been conducting a recycling program for nearly four years. They started the program in early 2010. Rudy Garza, public works director, said their intention from the beginning was to include schools in the area. The city focuses a lot on educating school students about the importance of recycling.

Garza said families get more involved in their recycling efforts when the children are excited about recycling. The city even has a recycling mascot, HERO (Helping Earth Recover Resources).

HERO visits schools throughout the year to promote the recycling efforts of the city and to educate students on how to recycle. The city goes by the school once a week to collect the recyclable items.

The City of Alton has teamed up with approximately 12 schools in Sharyland, La Joya and Mission school districts, said Garza. He added that they have seen an increase in the amount of items being recycled because of these partnerships. He said the partnership with the schools has been very effective at getting the message out that the city has a recycling program.

There are a lot of strict guidelines with certain items like plastic when it comes to recycling. To address these restrictions, cities will often accept only certain kinds of plastic for recycling.

Garza said the program started with grants the city was able to secure. They used the money from those grants to create a project and then make it into a program.

While the city does not bring in a lot – Garza gave a very modest number – he believes the program will only continue to grow. The city currently makes an average of $400 a month for recycled materials. For the size of the City of Alton, Garza believes it is a good number. He also said the city has to sort through what is brought in or collected because of normal trash items being included in recycle bins.

“But, all in all it’s good,” he said.

The amount of money the city makes off of the recycled materials depends on what vendor they sell to. Vendors change depending on who needs the items.

The city recently hired a recycling coordinator whose main goal will be getting more businesses and schools involved in the recycling program.

“The enthusiasm is there,” said Garza. “It’s only going to get bigger.”

The city currently takes in mostly paper products like cardboard, paper, magazines and newspaper. They do accept plastic, but again, there are strict guidelines about what kinds of plastic are recyclable.

“Education is the key,” said Garza when it comes to letting the public know about recycling and how they can help.

Cities like McAllen, a much larger city than Alton, can bring in nearly 900 tons of recyclable materials in a year. City of McAllen collects from area residents, businesses, schools, churches and surrounding communities.

Last year the City of McAllen made almost $85,000 off of 892 tons of recyclables.

Mission Has Modest Recycling Program

The City of Mission currently has a small recycling program. They have drop off locations throughout the city.

Mission Public Works Director Robert Salinas said a bigger recycling program might be something the city will get involved in the future, but right now they supply bins at a drop off station at 609 Canal Street and rotating bins that are currently located at three Winter Texan parks. Salinas said the bins do get rotated if requested.

City of Mission takes the bins, or trailers, once a week to the McAllen recycling center.

Salinas said they do want to educate the public about recycling and throwing trash away properly, but don’t intend to get into a bigger recycling program anytime soon.

When asked if the city would consider implementing a recycling partnership program with the schools similar to Alton’s program, Salinas said he believes the school districts have staff to take care of their own schools.

Currently recycling with the City of Mission is completely voluntary. The bins are available to collect paper, cardboard and plastic.

Other Valley cities have expanded their recycling efforts to include cans, metal, tin, computers, dry cell batteries, fluorescent light bulbs, cell phones and batteries, used motor oil, foam packing nuts and glass.

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