Selma should look at recycling more

Published 5:12pm Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Perhaps Selma could be a little more green. The city currently has a recycling program, but curbside pickup would be more convenient and may entice more participation.

The benefits of a recycling program are obvious, less waste going to the landfill and more metal, paper and plastic being reused in other products.

The program would work much like garbage pickup, but instead of providing everyone with a recycling container, perhaps its best to start a pilot program — purchase a set amount of recycling bins and ask residents to sign up.

If the pilot program draws more interest than the amount of recycling bins purchased, the city should slowly purchase more. If interest continues to grow, the city should make the program city-wide.

But the real question is how to make a curbside program work financially in Selma. After all, the city doesn’t have a bounty of extra cash lying around. The fiscal year 2013-2014 budget only projects a surplus of $15,000. It’s best not to spend that money. Expenses may end up being higher than projections.

After graduating from LSU, I spent my first few months working in Natchez, Miss., where two different cities were experimenting with recycling.

Vidalia, La. — Located directly across the Mississippi River from Natchez — was in the midst of a pilot program. The city of approximately 4,000 residents purchased 500 35-gallon recycling bins at a cost of $20,000. Vidalia included $20,000 in its budget and also tacked on a few extra bucks to residents’ utility bills. The city got 200 people to participate initially.

One solution is to mimic Vidalia’s efforts and tack on a few bucks to garbage or water bills. Though, the city already has a tremendous poverty problem and increasing bills may not be the best solution.

If the city can’t fund the large, initial cost of setting up the recycling program, grants may be a solution.

Successfully operating a recycling program is the most crucial, important part. Selma can’t afford to purchase recycling bins and let them sit in a city-owned lot.

The best solution may be a public-private partnership. The city could purchase the bins, but ask for companies to bid to be a pickup provider. If the city purchases the bins, a company would only have to foot the gas bill, labor and any other recycling processing costs.

Unfortunately, residents would still have to pay. That could become a problem as more than 1,000 residents have unpaid garbage bills. If Selma residents don’t pay garbage bills, why would they pay a recycling bill?

A recycling program isn’t a necessity but it would be a progressive measure that would bring Selma into the 21st Century.

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