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Volunteers: saving the islands one piece of trash at a time

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By Kellie Parkin

On Jan. 22 Cedar Key Mayor Heath Davis asked three residents to serve on an Energy Advisory Panel to spearhead a citywide, citizen-based conservation movement.

Faced with many tasks, Tom Deverin, Connie Nelson and Luz Kraujalis decided first to tackle the big project of recycling household and business garbage.

“Last month Waste Pro hauled away approximately 60 tons of garbage and 5 tons of yard waste,” Tom Deverin said. “Compared to only 3 tons of recycled material, it shows that there’s great room for improvement.” Seventy-two percent of product in landfills is recyclable, he added.

The first thing the panel did was meet with the Levy County Solid Waste Director Benny Jerrels and Foreman Rod Hastings. “They have been very cooperative,” said Deverin. “Several good things came out of that meeting.”

The result, Deverin said, is that glass can now be recycled in Levy County again. “There wasn’t a market for it before,” he said. “But they were able to determine that there was indeed a market for recycling (green, brown, and clear) glass.”

Due to previous market constraints, Levy County has been unable to recycle any kind of glass for the past four to five years because it would have cost the county money, Jerrels said. “Now we’ll be able to get about $4 to $5 a ton for it.”

Another accomplishment from the meeting with county officials is that Cedar Key will now have two recycling trailers: one green “household” unit, and one white “business” unit. The business trailer has a back door and contains no inside bins so large amounts or items such as cardboard can easily fit.

Several volunteers have joined the effort for a more sustainable Cedar Key including Mike Leiner. “I said I’d be a soldier, but not a leader,” the artist said with a grin.

On their own time and dime, volunteers have designed and built signs for the recycle trailers, explaining what can be recycled and how to do it. The signs are expected to be posted next week.

Items do not need to be separated to be placed in the trailers. “They’ve found that it doubles participation because its easier for people to throw it all in one bag,” Leiner said. “And they re-separate it anyway.”

The recycling trailers are located across from the Market grocery store on the corner of D St and 3rd. Volunteers have cleaned up the vacant lot and plan to landscape the area, adding cedar trees and other plantlife. Many of the volunteers stop by daily to check the area and clean up if needed, ensuring that the Cedar Key Recycling Center is well kept.

The panel’s strong volunteer base has been busily executing several other recycle-themed projects around the community as well.

Volunteers are building wire mesh bins that will be attached to wooden-slat garbage bins recently donated to the city by the Garden Club. The panel volunteers have also designed and built signs, similar to those for the recycle trailers, that illustrate the process. The bins will be relocated throughout the city in high foot-traffic areas. The wire mesh was a small city expense. All labor and other costs are being donated by volunteers.

Over the next week or so, volunteers will also being going door to door throughout the island to established the Magnet Program. The panel divided the entire city into approximately 18 sectors and designated a leader for each one. The leaders will personally visit each home within their areas, distributing recycling packets and offering personal invitations to visit the recycling center.

In addition to the refrigerator magnet with recycling tips and ideas, the packet also includes a cover letter from the Energy Advisory Panel, an information sheet from the Chief of Police about evacuation and re-entry in the event of a storm, a letter from Levy County Recycling, information about the Clean Harbor Program, and letter from the Fire Chief about the Vial of L.I.F.E program. It all comes in a biodegradable bag ready for recycling, so if you haven’t visited the trailer yet, it can be the first thing you take.

A total of 1000 magnets were designed and purchased by volunteers for the project. Half will be used for the neighborhood project. The other 500 will be distributed to condos and motels for placement on refrigerators, encouraging visitors to recycle and offering directions to the recycling center.

To reach the broadest audience possible, volunteers are also seeking out local newspaper readers. The “Conservation Corner” can be found in the print edition of the Cedar Key Beacon each week as well as online. The column features practical, educational information and ideas about recycling, conserving and sustainable living.

“The panel’s approach is that the individuals that create the waste should be responsible for taking care of it. We want to help them with proper information and encouragement,” Deverin said.

All of these initial Energy Advisory Panel projects are expected to be completed in the next couple of weeks, just two months since first meeting with county recycling officials.

“The volunteers have been great – we couldn’t have done any of this without them,” Panel member Connie Nelson said. “It is incredible the amount that has been done in two months,” she said.