By: Chris Porter
Lexington is and has mostly been a community of transplants – most Lexington residents arrive here from other places. This makes educating people about recycling extremely important, and also somewhat of a challenge. We often begin conversations about Lexington’s recycling program by saying, “All recycling is local.” This simply means that how we recycle in our community will be different than it is in other communities.
People are often surprised to learn what items we accept at Lexington’s Materials Recovery Facility and even more surprised to learn about the items that we do not accept. This is particularly true of people who have come here from other communities, where accepted items often include a greater array of plastics.
But what many Lexington residents don’t realize is the large number of refugees that are re-settled here each year. One community organization that works with this community is Kentucky Refugee Ministries (KRM), and for many years, Bluegrass Greensource (BGGS) has worked with the City of Lexington to provide KRM’s Citizen Orientation students with basic education on recycling and water quality.
For many of these students, living in Lexington is the first community they have lived in where recycling is a common practice. The problem, from Bluegrass Greensource’s perspective, is that the type of education we provide tends to be a bit abstract. We have lots of photos, information, and distribute educational materials created by the City of Lexington. But if you are a new resident to Lexington, do not have a solid grasp of English, and have never recycled before, will this information make sense to you?
This summer, BGGS worked with the City of Lexington and KRM’s Angelique Bell to brainstorm a different way to bring this education to life for her students. We realized that providing an up close, first-hand experience of the Recycling Center might be the most direct way to connect the dots and introduce this subject to new residents.
Early one June Friday morning, 28 people representing six different language groups gathered at Lexington’s Recycling Center. After a brief presentation about the basics of recycling in Lexington, the group toured the Center and saw each step of the recycling process from the tipping floor where the trucks deliver recyclables after collection, to the series of conveyor belts, machines, and human labor that sorts the materials, to the balers that process the materials to be shipped after a buyer has been secured.
The tour also provided an opportunity to demonstrate the many challenges facing recycling in both Lexington and the rest of the United States. Seeing the materials being processed really drives home the impact that contamination – materials that should not be recycled – has on the workers, the machines, and ultimately the Recycling Center’s ability to successfully re-sell the materials.
“Today was really a lot of fun,” said Angelique Bell, KRM’s teacher for the Citizen Orientation class. “It was really nice to not only get the information about recycling, but to also see where everything is processed. It was really a good lesson for the group!”
In Lexington, we have a robust system of municipal services that help to make our community the healthy, vibrant place it is. But these services require residents do their part to make sure they function properly. For some of Lexington’s newest residents, this education helps them understand how our community works, what services are available to them, and what they can do to ensure their ongoing success.
If you and/or your group is interested in touring Lexington’s Recycling Center or learning more about recycling in Lexington, please contact Chris Porter, Outreach Specialist, at chris@BgGreensource.org or call the office at 859-266-1572.