3 min read
Posted on 06.25.10
  • 3 min read
  • Posted on 06.25.10

This guest blog was submitted by Patrick Brown.

A few days ago Mayor Slay received a letter from a fellow environmentalist. His name is Ricky and he is eight years old. Ricky expressed his concern that one day we will all wake up and trash will be everywhere around us. His secondary concern was that as an eight year old, he felt helpless to get the word out about the importance of reducing our waste, reusing what we already have, and then recycling what we no longer need.

I have copied Ricky's letter below. However, the Mayor thought it appropriate that we give him a little help with furthering his cause. So, in addition to the letter, I also brought a few facts and figures to the table.

Dear Mayor,

I want to stop pollution but I can't because I am just an eight year old boy. I have told my friends but I want to make a bigger shout out. I want people to know one day they're going to wake up and see trash EVERYWHERE. But how do I make a bigger shout out?

Please write back.

Thank you for your time.



Ricky's point is well taken; we all need to do our part to keep our community clean. And we really should be thinking in terms of, "how does my waste affect our community?"

The Mayor and the City of St. Louis take recycling seriously, which is why the City has decided to implement a new recycling program that we believe, will significantly increase our level of recycling city-wide.

One man's trash is another man's treasure may well be the case of the $4,871,895 the City paid to the landfill in 2009 in solid waste tipping fees. If we can reduce just 25% of the City's solid waste by diverting it to recycle bins we can save over a million dollars. Furthermore, not only will the City save money we can earn money by recycling that same 25%.

Recycling is a great alternative to hauling things to the landfill. However, the best option is to first reduce the amount of waste we generate as individuals and then reuse what we can. We can each take a look at how we can do those two things and decrease what needs to be recycled -- or as a very last resort, thrown-away.

As I sit with a crumpled up paper napkin lying on my desk I realize that the Reduce, Reuse, Recycle model is not the easiest or most convenient thing to do. It requires us to break old habits and actively go against the convenience of takeout food containers, paper plates, bottled water, plastic bags, and disposable sporks (reusable sporks are totally fine.)

When I told Jill Hamilton, the City's Recycling Program Manager, that I was writing this blog, she wrote back:

Ricky is underestimating his personal power. We hear from many adults who contact us asking how to recycle because my kid learned about it in school, so now I gotta recycle. Along this vein is The Starfish Story: Thousands of starfish washed ashore. A little girl began throwing them in the water so they wouldn't die. "Don't bother, dear" her mother said, "it won't make a difference." The girl stopped for a moment and looked at the starfish in her hand. Then she said, "It will make a difference to this one."

We have to remember that choosing not to use that paper napkin or that disposable spork, and recycling aluminum cans, cardboard boxes, and glass bottles will make an impact in our landfills. They make a difference to our bottom line, and they make a difference to the community in which we live. But most of all, our choices will make a difference to our children.

With that, I will step down from my soapbox made from post-consumer recycled material - and hope that we in the Mayor's office have made our new friend, Ricky, proud. We are certainly proud of him for raising the question.