MONTROSE – When Montrose's curbside recycling program was discontinued for 2012, two local high school students saw an opportunity to help.
Montrose High students Samantha Oman and Kelly O'Meara, members of the school's Family, Career and Community Leaders of America club (formerly Future Homemakers of America), learned in January that the City of Montrose could no longer fund its curbside recycling program, and that pickups had ceased.
The city had provided the free service for three years, and Oman and O'Meara didn't want the momentum behind recycling to die with the program.
It was at that time that they realized they had found a community service project.
"For that club, you have to do a community service-related project to compete at state," Oman said. "We thought we'd help the elderly and people with young children by taking their recycling to the recycling center."
The girls made flyers, set pickup dates and headed into local neighborhoods to promote the project. Interested participants were asked to fill their city-provided recycling containers, and put them on the curb each Saturday for pickup. Extra bins were available through the city.
On their first Saturday, 50 homes participated. Now, there are about 250, Oman said.
"I was a little concerned that it was a big undertaking, but I also knew they were very capable and dedicated," said Leila Koenig, advisor for FCCLA.
Each Saturday, the two girls head out at about 7 a.m. in a mini van sectioned off inside, with cardboard, to provide sorting areas. They currently cover the neighborhoods of Woodgate, Otter Pond, Friendly Hills and areas around Townsend Ave., near Safeway.
As part of their FCCLA project, Oman and O'Meara put together a 45-page portfolio about the project, and created a 10-minute presentation on what they had accomplished and its effects on the community.
"It made us sad that there wasn't as much recycling getting done – and that's a lot of energy being lost," Oman said. "We saw it as a benefit to the community and the environment."
The girls took their project to the state FCCLA competition, where it placed first in a field of two-dozen projects, giving them an opportunity to showcase their efforts at the National Conference in Orlando last weekend.
At that competition, they received a nearly perfect score of 99.6 out of 100 in the Environmental Ambassador category, said Koenig.
"Time was their number one challenge," she said, of the girls’ administration of the project. "But they are very dedicated students, and I think in accomplishing their projects, they were very committed and very environmentally involved."
Oman said she hopes their recycling effort, which they expect to continue until the city relaunches its program, inspires others to help continue recycling in their neighborhoods.
"For people to do something similar in their neighborhoods would really help," she said.
City staff is in the process of negotiating a single-stream recycling contract with Cornerstone Waste and Recycle, its current trash, and former recycling, transfer station.
The city expects to launch that new program by January 2013, but it is dependent on how soon all the essential program elements fall into place, according to city staff.
During the July 17 Montrose City Council meeting, a motion to approve a contract for the purchase of 90-gallon recycling carts failed, 2-2 with one absent, as councilors showed concerns at the possibility that a program couldn't be in place at that time, and buying bins was putting the "cart before the horse."
Staff assured councilors that a program would be possible by that time, but more discussion on the matter will take place at the Aug. 7 regular council meeting.
Kati O'Hare at email@example.com