Tuesday, January 19, 2010

MLK Day of Service

Recycling program kicks off at Casa de la Esperanza on Day of Service

By Magdalena Wegrzyn
© 2010 Longmont Times-Call

LONGMONT — Jose Jimenez, 11, held up a dirty diaper with one glove-encased hand.

“I’m brave,” he called out as the other volunteers at Monday’s clean up of Casa de la Esperanza inched away from the offending piece of garbage.

Jimenez grimaced and gingerly threw the bundle into an outstretched trash bag.

At the end of the day, 16 trash bags of assorted litter — including plenty of diapers that had just missed the Dumpster — were collected by children in Casa de la Esperanza’s resident services program.

The cleanup was part of a new campaign sponsored by Eco-Cycle and the city’s public works department to encourage recycling at apartments. During the next 10 months, Eco-Cycle will provide residents at 10 apartment complexes in Longmont education and resources to recycle.

The first site was Casa de la Esperanza, a 32-unit community that houses migrant farm workers and their families. The rest of the sites have not yet been determined.

Eco-Cycle launched the campaign Monday to coincide with the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, which Congress designated a National Day of Service in 1994. It was also a day off for students in the St. Vrain Valley School District.

As part of the program, volunteers helped sort the collected litter into recycled items and trash. The children also painted blue single-steam recycling bins, which will be distributed to each family.

Javier Gonzalez, 9, painted “Recycling Only” on his bin in olive green paint. The third-grader at Indian Peaks Elementary said his teachers have taught him about the importance of recycling.

“Trash makes landfills, which sometimes produce the greenhouse effect,” he said, never taking his eyes off his bin.

Western Disposal will provide four bins for recycling alongside the Dumpsters at Casa de la Esperanza. Eco-Cycle will monitor both the trash and recycling bins for two months to see if the approach is working, said Cynthia Ashley, community campaign manager for Eco-Cycle.

“Our goal is to have as much in the recycling bins as in the garbage,” she said.

Apartment recycling can be difficult because property management companies don’t always provide residents with accessible resources, Ashley said. And even if they do, education is essential.

“It’s very hard to get residents to do it without education, and that doesn’t happen just by sticking a sign on a bin,” she said.

Casa de la Esperanza, which is owned and operated by the Boulder County Housing Authority, supplied recycling bins for residents years ago, said program coordinator Carlota Loya-Hernandez. But the recycling program was canceled because it wasn’t working, she said.

“The education component was missing,” she said.

Children of residents are now “immersed in recycling” at school and bring that knowledge home to parents, she said.

“We are definitely ready for it,” she said. “It’s something that has been missing for a while.”

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