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Piece of Mind: Recycling Continues Without Volunteer Help

By John Kanelis

Commerce’s recycling efforts could have tanked when Commerce Community Cares bailed out of a volunteer effort it had joined with the City of Commerce and Texas A&M University-Commerce.

The efforts did not die. I had been concerned when Commerce Community Cares decided it no longer could volunteer for the joint project. The recycling efforts did become a “bit more difficult” without the volunteers, according to interim Commerce City Manager Ned Muse.

Recycling continues in Commerce and to my way of thinking that is a very good thing for the city, for the university … not to mention for our precious Mother Earth.

Commerce Community Cares had cooperated with the city and with TAMUC on an informal basis, Muse said. There was no signed contract, no “formal agreement” cast in stone. The volunteers just monitored recycling material deposited at three locations on the TAMUC campus.

Muse said the city has an agreement with Republic Waste, a private commercial waste disposal company that operates recycling centers in Plano and Kilgore.

“Commerce Cares provided a volunteer effort, but they became discouraged with the recycling program,” Muse said. Indeed, I had heard that the too much “trash” was showing up in the bins set aside exclusively for material to be recycled. I recall a recycling effort in Amarillo – where I lived for nearly 25 years – falling apart over that issue. The city had placed Dumpsters at locations around town, then hauled them away when residents began throwing food and other non-recyclable trash into the bins marked “recycling only.”

So, the frustration mounted as well in Commerce with Commerce Community Cares. It bailed out.

Muse doesn’t hold any hard feelings toward Commerce Community Cares, although he did say “there is certainly a downside when you lose a volunteer organization’s help.” He suggested that the absence of volunteers has put more of a burden on TAMUC staff that is working with the city.

Derek Preas, director of operations and safety at TAMUC, agrees on the burdensome aspect of recycling, but he insisted that it is necessary and that the university and the community want to see it continue. “We hope the community and the campus don’t give up on recycling,” Preas said.

He said the loss of Commerce Community Cares is not a “failure” on the part of Texas A&M-Commerce or the citizens of the city. The failure occurred with a “lack of education on recycling,” he said. “The blunt truth is that it takes a dedicated work force” to make this process work, Preas said.

“We are trying to figure out a process for recycling. We should be a leader and a role model in recycling. I mean, it’s meant to protect the environment,” Preas said. “We all want to recycle and we have those big green bins on our campus that are getting filled up all the time,” he said.

Preas said that going forward, the university and the city are going to “piecemeal a process until we figure out how to do it.” He cited the work of Eco Lions, an A&M-Commerce student group that is lending a hand to the recycling effort.

I happen to one observer who wishes the university and the city well on this important and noble effort.

It’s been said by many people a whole lot smarter than I am, but it bears repeating: We’ve got only one planet on which to live. We must take care of it. Any and all efforts to promote recycling and re-use of finite material are an essential part of that noble effort.

John Kanelis, former editorial page editor for the Amarillo Globe-News and the Beaumont Enterprise, is also a former blogger for Panhandle PBS in Amarillo. He is now retired, but still writing. Kanelis can be contacted via Twitter @jkanelis, on Facebook, or his blog, www.highplainsblogger.com. Kanelis' blog for KETR, "Piece of Mind," presents his views, and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of KETR, its staff, or its members.

Kanelis lives in Princeton with his wife, Kathy.

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