AFTER JUST ONE WEEK, more than 3,000 signatures have been gathered in a petition drive in support of curbside recycling.
Proponents of curbside recycling are collecting signatures in an effort to force a referendum on the issue. A referendum could be held as early as February.
If voters approve the referendum, the city charter would be changed to say, “garbage collection shall include single-stream curbside recycling of glass, plastic, aluminum, newspaper and magazines.”
That’s good news to environmental activist Stacey Kronquest, who conducted a petition drive of her own in 2005. She collected more than 6,000 signatures in support of curbside recycling at that time.
Kronquest became involved in the issue out of concern for poor air quality. Her son has asthma, which can be triggered by pollutants caused by incineration of garbage.
Rather than incinerate recyclables, Kronquest says they can be sold to offset the costs of the recycling program. “The Georgia carpet industry is the largest purchaser of Pet No. 1 plastic in the world,” she says.
“They’re in our own back yard, so there’s a local market for it. They have to import it from other places, and we’re burning it.”
Burning plastic releases a deadly toxin called dioxin. “It is very, very dangerous,” Kronquest says. “The burning of plastic and paper is very combustible.”
The paper industry needs recycled paper, Kronquest says. “We have huge paper mills in Georgia, yet they have to buy recycled paper from other places,” she says. “We’re very fortunate we have access to such markets in our own back yard.”
While the enthusiasm of supporters is heartening, Kronquest says the effort if far from over. “I’m not overconfident,” she says. “It’s going to be a lot of hard work. A lot of people have come forward to volunteer. We’re getting out to the neighborhoods and getting everyone to sign the petition.”
Originally, proponents thought they needed to gather 11,000 signatures. The number of signatures required in such a petition drive is based on population and the number of voters registered in the 2003 municipal election. However, the organizers have learned that only 8,058 signatures are needed.
Karen Grainey, who filed the petition with the city council, says the group is going for the 11,000 signatures as originally planned. “Some signatures won’t be validated,” she says, adding that the group wants to make sure there are sufficient signatures without those.
A member of the Sierra Club, Clean Coast and the Audubon Society, Grainey is confident enough signatures will be gathered. “It’s like motherhood and apple pie,” she says. “In and of itself, recycling is not controversial.”
City officials say curbside recycling services will be offered in Savannah, regardless of the outcome of the petitions drive and possible referendum. Stephanie Cutter, Sanitation Director for the City of Savannah, says the city is working to expand it’s entire recycling program.
“We’re moving forward with expanding our recycling program,” she says. “We currently have the drop-off recycling facility, and we’re working on a plan for a curb-side recycling program. It hasn’t been formally approved, but we are moving toward it.”
Any new program must be approved by the mayor and city council, Cutter says. “They have adopted a curbside recycling resolution and given the staff approval to assist in implementing a program,” she says.
“The city is making a major effort in expanding the entire recycling program. We are continuing the educational aspect of our recycling program and researching funding solutions to offset the costs of curbside recycling.”
Persons wishing to sign the petition can visit www.savannahrecycling.org. There also are paper petitions in several local businesses.
Even though city officials say they’re moving towards a curbside recycling program, Grainey and Kronquest aren’t convinced.
“The city has done a lot of talk in response to the petition,” Grainey says. “I think the only reason they’re speaking as much on the issue is the petition. We want to keep them motivated in the right direction.”
“They wouldn’t be saying this is if it wasn’t for the petition drive,” Kronquest agrees. “I feel they’re saying it because of the outcry of the citizenry. If people want recycling, they need to sign the petition. It’s time for the people to speak.”
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