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reduce, reuse, recycle...resistant?

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By Brent Schanding

The average adult in Henry County could throw away 600 times his weight in garbage over a lifetime, according to reports from environmentalists.

Alexandra Guidry knows the severity of that statistic. That's why the Eminence eighth-grader is pushing for door-to-door recycling services in the county. Last year Guidry surveyed the community about recycling for a school science project and found only a small portion recycle here. Others indicated they would be willing to recycle if it were easier, the survey found.

No Henry County cities offer curbside recycling.

Eminence rejected the services last fall in part because the measure wasn't found to be cost effective. All Eminence households would've been required to pay at least an extra $3.25 per month for the service, City Clerk Sandra Doane said, and less than half of city households expressed interest in a more costly volunteer participation of the program.

"[The council] didn't feel they could get 50 percent," Doane said.

Limited recycling is offered by the County Solid Waste Department on South Property Road. There, receptacles can be found for the collection of some recyclable materials, including plastic, paper, cardboard and aluminum.

The county also sponsors an annual scrap-metal collection day where the community can dispose of refrigerators, large appliances and junk farm machinery. About 200 tons of scrap have been collected through the program's efforts, according to county officials.

Apart from those services, Guidry and other eco-conscious recyclers are forced to haul glass and other recyclables to Louisville or elsewhere.

It's been worth it for Guidry, who says her family has reduced its trash by as much as 70 percent since they began recycling three years ago.

"Our trash can was usually full by pickup day," she wrote in a letter to The Local. "Now it's half empty."

But broader recycling would reduce the amount of trash stored in landfills, Guidry said, and more importantly, it would decrease the production of methane, a dangerous gas found to deplete the Earth's ozone layer.

"By recycling you're helping the environment and telling your children and grandchildren that you care about the world," Guidry said.

More than 11,268 tons of Henry County garbage were dumped last year at the Valley View Landfill in Sulphur, according to county officials. That number amounts to almost three-quarters of a ton, or 1,406 pounds, of garbage per resident, using the 2006 U.S. Census population estimate for the county.

While broader countywide recycling efforts could reduce that amount, Judge-Executive John Logan Brent says the initiative can't be forced on people.

"I don't think it's something we would make mandatory," said Brent, who favors a volunteer curbside recycling program, if it's cost effective.

Several in the county resisted mandatory garbage pickup a few years ago. All households in unincorporated areas are billed $15.28 a month for trash removal.

Brent said county leaders are eyeing initiatives to broaden the county's recycling services.

"We are partly working on some options to allow for recycling of glass," he said, although those plans have not been formally launched.

Brent also would like the county to partner with local schools to make those facilities drop-off sites for kids who choose to recycle.

County leaders could re-negotiate its garbage removal contract this summer, Brent said, when countywide curbside recycling services could be considered.

Until then, Brent encouraged Guidry and other youth in the county to lead the charge for environmental change.

"That's the only way to make a long-term change," Brent said. "You have to crawl sometimes before you run. But we have to do our part and leave the world better than we found it."

E-mail us about this article at editor@hclocal.com.