When my wife and I purchased our first home in 1994, space was so abundant compared to our cramped apartment that we had to find things to fill the emptiness. Take the garage, for example. Not only did it fit both our cars and all our lawn stuff, but it also had a pretty good expanse of wall that needed filling. I figured I’d install a recycling center.
I shopped for some cool, stackable plastic bins and set them up in no time. Sorting the trash was easy because everything had a space—aluminum cans, steel cans, bottles, newspaper, and plastics. We hardly had enough “normal” trash left to leave a respectable-sized bag at the curb once a week.
Fifteen years later, the cars and house are different, but the recycling center in the garage re-mains. I even play a little game with the recycling. I try to see how long I can go between trips to the colorful community containers a few miles away from my house.
My personal record is four months, but it wasn’t pretty. I crammed the plastic—which fills up fastest in my house—into the bin until the door would no longer close and then I put them into a large, yard trash bag. I placed the steel cans inside each other to conserve space, like low-rent Russian nesting dolls, except mine consisted of varying-circumference soup cans. I won’t even mention the stack of twice-daily newspapers! I believe there was a climate change at its pinnacle. If the tower had toppled, I’m positive it would’ve hurt the neighborhood cat that regularly visits my ga-rage. And moving the bottles was a full-cardio workout.
But when I do get around to hauling the bins to the neighborhood recycling center, I always see a few cars doing the same. None of us seem to mind the hassle, though, as we dump our containers into the appropriate brightly colored bin. What’s to grumble about? We’re getting outside and we’re doing our part, one ketchup bottle, one old newspaper at a time.
But what about our city? Is it doing its part?
We’ve asked that question—Why doesn’t Ocala recycle?—often at Ocala Style. The idea has come up at the last few editorial pitch sessions we have every quarter.
So why doesn’t Ocala recycle, and we mean really recycle—curbside—not in “collection” bins scattered around the county? We thought we’d get some answers for you.
Associate Editor Karin Fabry-Cushenbery’s in-depth article on page 74 sheds some light on the issue. She talked to city leaders and asked the tough questions. Editorial Assistant Kristina Kolesa also compared Ocala with relative cities that have a curbside recycling program in place. You know, I hate to bring this up because of our rivalry with That City To The North, but Gainesville does. And That Sprawling Mega-Retirement Destination south of us does as well.
So why not Ocala?
I hope this article—and others that have been written elsewhere before and since—will get a new dialogue going because time is running out. To me, letting my recycling pile get out of control is a game, but to residents who live near Mount Baseline, which will soon be taller than the Matterhorn, it’s not a game at all.
Yes, I’m sure the answer is a bit more complicated than my first garage recycling center almost 15 years ago, but we have to start somewhere. All we need are some plastic bins and a plan.
All my best,
The Ocala Style Top 10 with Dean Blinkhorn,
the first Friday of each month at 8am
on BIG OLDIES 92.9 with Bill Barr.
Upcoming shows: May 2 and June 6.