Thursday, September 17, 2009

No More SPSA Curbside Recycling: One Little Step Back to Take A Big Step Forward

Posted Thursday, September 17th, 2009 at 2:35 pm on
by Amelia Baker

When the reports about SPSA (Southeastern Public Service Authority) discontinuing its curbside recycling made front page news a few weeks back, I was so very excited. Why? First of all, to set the record straight, Hampton Roads’ recycling isn’t going anywhere. It’s just getting a face lift.

But I’m excited because this means that our clunky recycling program is getting a much-needed shot to better its services.

Allow me to elaborate on why I think it’s pretty darn great that SPSA is finally throwing in the towel. Though there are financial and logistical reasons that this turn of events is oh so good, I must tell you about my very first experience with SPSA.

If you’ve been to Green Alternatives, you know that we offer ourselves up as a drop-off point to encourage residents to recycle many things, including batteries. One morning, my husband loaded up his trunk full of batteries that we’d excitedly collected and took them to SPSA to be recycled during one of their highly inconvenient hazardous waste collection days. He got there only to find out that they wouldn’t take them from us.

The reason? The mere fact that Green Alternatives was a business and not a “resident” made us ineligible to take our hazardous waste to SPSA. Infuriated, I called SPSA in a tizzy ready to defend my position as a local do-gooder who was just trying to do the right thing.

Thirty minutes later, I was in a yelling match with one of the directors which went something like,“Are you kidding me that you would rather me throw 400 pounds of batteries into the trash instead of recycling them?!?” and the response was “Sorry, we can’t help you.” Keeping this family-friendly, I won’t share the entire dialog, but know that my strongly worded threats went nowhere. So there you have it. That was my first experience with SPSA, which was less than pleasant.

Other than my personal resentment, hear me out on actual business faux-pas. For a while, SPSA has been fighting bankruptcy. Its barely afloat business has been offered buy-out packages from RDS and ReEnergy which were all quickly shot-down. At inception, SPSA was worth about $8 million and now is only worth about $4 million. If you ask me, when your business is only worth half of what it cost to start it up 20+ years later, you clearly must be doing something wrong; besides the fact that it’s in the red $240 million.

So you see: SPSA’s lackluster performance coming to an end is a blessing. Now, the fine cities that make up Hampton Roads are free to contract with the best of the best. After the news was publicized earlier this month, I promptly called my local municipality to encourage the adoption of a recycling program that actually recycles. It’s rather frustrating to throw away plastic tubs and containers when they can ALL be recycled. I hate telling eager greenies that unfortunately our area doesn’t offer any recycling of plastics unless they’re bottle-shaped. It takes a little wind out of my sail every time I have to utter those depressing words.

Because I strongly believe that you can’t complain about something unless you furnish a valid solution, I’ve done some research and would like to offer up the answer to our recycles woes: Recycle Bank, a genius concept that gathers phenomenal amounts of recycling and rewards households with gift cards and other goodies just for recycling. If you haven’t heard of this fantastic firm, you should check them out.

Though this is my very personal and somewhat biased opinion, I felt it necessary to vent about my SPSA debacle because now is the time to pass on your two cents before another shoddy contract is signed for our curbside recycling programs.

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