One of the oddest things I’ve seen in my life was in Key West, Fla. And no, I don’t mean down on Duval Street. That sort of odd intrigues me. Rather it was on the way to see what the community college looked like. To the left was a mountain. Wait a minute, a mountain in Key West? My husband looked at me shaking his head in that way he does when he finds me amusing and said it was the Key West landfill. Then it made sense. But its size and height were horrifying and in that moment presented itself as the perfect “poster child” for the important concept of recycling.
In 1972, under the encouragement and support of biology teacher William Arington, the first Vienna High School Ecology Club began. The club was small, but enthusiasm was strong. A new concept in the country known as recycling was discussed and club president Cindy Monroe said we should begin an effort. I don’t remember all the ins and outs of the project but it ended up being her and myself, permission from the owners of the old Hood Motor Company to use water in their back garage, a collection of glass soda bottles we found in ditches, then mayor Paul Page overseeing our efforts and our washing out bottles to be taken to JP and Ruth’s grocery. The Vienna Times ran our picture on the front page. In our young minds we had recycling off and running in Vienna. Problem is I don’t remember ever doing it again.
Flash forward to a few years ago as I watched my husband take two to three trash cans a week down to the road for pick-up. How can two people produce that much trash? I knew much of it could be
d but the closest center was in Carbondale. In time Metropolis started a recycling effort with a bin being placed behind the fire department. I got boxes to separate plastic, metal, paper, and glass. Once a week I’d pull up to the bins with a feeling of satisfaction as well as the horrible memory of Key West. Within a matter of months articles began to appear in the Massac County paper with quotes from the mayor’s office stating that people were dumping items that were not recyclable. My favorite was an old Lazy Boy recliner with a car battery sitting in the seat. Citizens were warned if they didn’t begin to do better the bin would be removed.
Around that same time Vienna placed a bin at the city park. As I had when starting to recycle in Metropolis, I carefully read the sign about what was and was not to be placed in bins. The two towns operated a bit differently. I enjoyed having both locations for about a year when in Metropolis there was finally an incident that signaled the end. It was contributed to by a horse and took the mayor to a point where as Doc Holliday said to Wyatt Earp, the strain was more than he could bear. A bag of horse poo had been placed in the bin for paper and card board. Rumor has it that the horse was from Johnson County so I’ll not go into that any further. Let’s just say that by the time the next week’s paper came out announcing the end of Metropolis’ recycling project, the bin was gone never to be seen again.
At that point the Vienna bin became all that more important to me. I still to this day refer to the signs that indicate what can or can not be recycled. In speaking with Mayor Simmons he reports that citizens are doing a pretty good job, but I see Styrofoam often, a big no-no. I also see lawn chair metal frames as well as whole plastic lawn chairs. While metal as well as plastic can be recycled, signage clearly says no furniture. To date the most interesting thing I have seen was an antique toaster although signs clearly state no appliances. If I could have reached it I would have taken it uptown to one of the antique stores, any one of which would have appreciated it and sold it for a pretty penny. One man’s junk is another man’s treasure, but that isn’t the point of this article.
Aside from being down from three to one trash can a week, I find that the recycling bin is a great place to socialize. One afternoon I ran into the sister of one of my old boy friends. I hadn’t seen her since the early 70’s and while I don’t miss the old boy friend, it sure was nice seeing her again. And one day I talked with a gentleman who told me my dad had given him his first car loan. I hadn’t had anyone speak to me about my dad in a long time.
Being familiar with recycling rules allows us to continue having the privilege the city has afforded us. As I found out the hard way in Metropolis, you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.