Right before Christmas I received a letter addressed to “Dear Valued Customer” from Amwaste, informing me that its curbside recycling pickup for the City of Hammond will be discontinued at the end of this year. This letter left me upset and disappointed, to put it mildly.

When Amwaste got the contract a year ago, the company discontinued the free curbside recycling collection we had enjoyed earlier but offered the same service to customers who were willing to pay $100 for the year. I paid my $100 even though I had some reservations about it.

It wasn’t the money per se that bothered me but the approach. I happen to believe that recycling is a worthwhile effort and should be encouraged.

To assess a recycling fee is a form of punishment instead of encouragement.

It was immediately obvious that in a neighborhood where most people had recycled when the service was free, very few households chose to participate in this new, continued program.

If recycling was a part of the negotiations when Amwaste was awarded the contract by the City of Hammond a year ago, it seems as if the discontinuation of the collection of recyclables should present a problem.

It is similar to the all-too-common practice these days when people put a face mask on when they enter a store because there is a sign on the door that lets customers know that face masks are required but then take it off or pull it down once they are inside the store.

My passion for recycling can be traced back to my roots in Sweden. When I came to the United States as an immigrant in 1982, I was shocked to discover how often Americans used paper and plastic.

I also found it remarkable that the success of Mardi Gras in New Orleans was measured by how much garbage was collected after the party was over.

Swedes have turned recycling into a habit. There are recycling stations everywhere, within easy reach. They consist of a collection of containers or dumpsters that are labeled “Plastic,” “Glass,” “Newspapers,” “Aluminum,” etc., and people bring their recyclables to these stations and place them in the appropriate containers. When the containers fill up, they are replaced by empty ones. With this system, individuals help out with the sorting of the recyclables.

It took me a long time to find out about recycling sites in Hammond, and then these sites moved around all the time; therefore, it was such an improvement and relief when curbside recycling collection was introduced a few years ago.

Now when I had visitors from Sweden, I felt proud to show them that Louisiana was catching on.

It feels like a giant step back in time to learn that I will have to haul my items to one of these recycling sites once again. Since my life has changed, it will be very challenging for me to make these hauls today, and I haven’t yet figured out what I am going to do.

The easy option is not to worry about it and just throw everything out as garbage, but the mere thought of acting this way makes me cringe. I do care about the environment, and I want to save landfill space.

It is just sad that we are losing a service that made our lives easier.

Birgitta Ramsey lives in Hammond.

(1) comment

Suggartwin

I, too, was appalled when I received the letter from Waste Management. Initially I immediately requested a recycle bin, as I have been recycling since the mid-80's when I lived in Slidell and when I moved back to my hometown. It's shameful that Hammond has not embraced the full name of a progressive city.

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