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America Recycles Day nears, City of Sanibel well prepared

By Staff | Nov 11, 2009

Do you ever tell yourself that one day, you’ll start recycling? Well, that day is coming… and it’s Nov. 15.

There are holidays for turkeys, war heroes, chocolate bunnies and little Irish leprechauns, but this Sunday is the only nationally recognized day that encourages Americans to recycle and buy recycled products.

Each year, the America Recycles Day (ARD) campaign informs millions of people about the importance of recycling at both home and work. The national campaign, sponsored by Keep America Beautiful and the National Recycling Coalition, educates people on the basics of recycling: why it’s important, how it works, what to do and – perhaps most important – what not to do.

Americans are encouraged to make a recycling pledge on the official ARD Web site. Here, people can promise to do anything from finding out what can and cannot be recycled to e-mailing elected officials to ask them to increase funding for a community’s recycling program. Furthermore, the Web site informs people of nearby towns that are hosting events in celebration of recycling.

America Recycles Day was established by the U.S. government in 1997 to focus one day a year on educating people about good recycling habits. Sanibel, however, has taken a slightly different approach.

“Everyday is recycling day on Sanibel,” said City Manager Judie Zimomra. “What’s most important is the environment; the other priorities can follow. It’s a hierarchy of needs.”

Sanibel even won the National Planning Landmark Award in 2007 for the vision and commitment of the Sanibel Plan. The plan is a comprehensive strategy that finds the balance between development and preservation. It also includes factors such as the disposal of solid waste and recycling.

Residents of Sanibel can recycle anything that is accepted by Lee County Solid Waste Management. This includes, but is not limited to, the following:

Hazardous waste

Aluminum

Glass

Metal

Plastic

Paper

Hazardous waste is recycled by dropping it off between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday and every first Saturday of the month from 8 a.m. until noon at 6441 Topaz Court in Fort Myers.

On the island, recyclable material is picked up from residents once a week at no charge, and to help reach the Lee County recycling goal of 50 percent, free recycling bins are available for any Lee County resident.

The Sanibel Island Public Works Department also distributes magnets that outline what can and cannot be recycled.

“I think [recycling] is very important to Sanibel residents,” said Gates Castle, the city’s Public Works Director. “The problem is getting the recycling message to the visitors. When you’re away on vacation, you’re not as focused on maintaining those good recycling habits you have at home.”

In order to target those on vacation, Sanibel has a mandatory condominium recycling program which sets a minimum that condominiums must recycle. If they do not comply, they can be charged a fee.

Although there is not a mandatory recycling program for Sanibel businesses, a Lee County ordinance – affecting about 7,500 businesses in unincorporated Lee County – has increased commercial recycling by nearly 70 percent.

In the past year, many hotels and resorts on Sanibel have received the Green Lodging Program Award for their recycling efforts and environmentally friendly habits. Ocean’s Reach Condominiums Resort was the first to receive the Green Lodging award on Sanibel or Captiva Island. According to Andy Boyle, manager of Ocean’s Reach, “Going green was a decision of common sense.”

“We’re very much involved with the environment around us. We’ve made it a number one priority,” Boyle said. “We have decreased the trash pickup by at least one-third.”

Sanibel is progressively reducing the amount of trash produced, and recycling is on the rise, but to be most effective, recycling has to be a community effort.

So, have you joined the trend yet? Maybe this Sunday, Nov. 15 is your time to start.

To find out more on what you can do to get involved in America Recycles Day 2009, please visit the official Web site at www.americarecyclesday.org.