Recycling Resurgence

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Finding ways to reduce our carbon footprint, reuse products beyond their original purpose, and recycle things that can be processed is all the rage these days. With climate change and more eco-friendly initiatives, many people are making sure to be conscious of their habits. 

For Alamo native Annemarie Alaniz, this is nothing new. 

Since Alaniz presented a school project to her parents, the whole family was hooked on better practices to reduce waste and recycle. 

“My family has been recycling since I was in the third grade,” she said. “It’s just something that was a natural part of my life. It’s not something that I really question, so with other people, when I go over to their place, and they’re not recycling, sometimes it catches me off guard that, yeah, not everyone does this.”

It’s true that not everyone recycles. This is amplified because not all cities in our region have convenient options for residents to recycle. 

McAllen and Edinburg are the two RGV municipalities that offer curbside recycling pick-up, where residents just need to collect in their homes and put out a bin once a week. 

For residents like Alaniz in Alamo, they must make a trip to a center. 

“We recycle plastic bottles, glass, cardboard, with plastics. It depends because different places sometimes only do certain levels,” she said. 

Her weekly routine consists of taking all of the family’s recyclables over to the McAllen facility, which offers drop-off for non-residents. At the center, there are huge containers for cardboard, glass, metals, mixed recyclables, and debris. McAllen residents have access to additional services. 

Alaniz believes that if more towns made recycling easier and a part of residents’ weekly routine, it would increase participation.

“I do wish more cities did curbside collection because I feel like more people would be motivated to start recycling,” she said. “It’s not a huge change.”

She’s lived outside of the Valley and says that places like Austin or Los Angeles have recycling built into the culture and economy. 

“If the place I moved to had access to a place I could take my recycling, it was always really close and not out of the way,” she said. “It doesn’t disrupt your routine. If it wasn’t inconvenient to people’s day-to-day, I think it would work better.

The tide does seem to be turning, with RGV leaders exploring more options and building facilities to recycle. 

McAllen has a large facility on Bensten Road that non-residents can use. Edinburg also has a drop-off center, as does Weslaco and Brownsville. 

Brownsville expanded a program to offer weekly drop-off cities in each of its four districts to give residents a chance to take reusables. Mayor Trey Mendez told the media that this was an interest gauging effort to possibly add curbside recycling services down the line. 

Like Alaniz, other locals in the Valley have dove head-first into reuse culture and small businesses. Thrift stores and vintage shops have exploded in popularity, tackling the “fast fashion” industry. This refers to Americans’ excessive purchasing of clothing items only to be thrown away after minimal use. 

Reports say even when clothes are donated, they often end up in developing countries’ landfills or coasts. 

Local business owner Portia Lopez makes candles using discarded bottles and small pots. Her brand, SowGoodCandles, also comes with seeds to plant and begin a new life. This practice is known as “upcycling” and fits in a low-waste lifestyle. Her unique vegan candles have gained strong traction on social media, getting orders around the world. 

Alaniz believes that there can be an impact on the economy and job creation if cities Valleywide built facilities and pushed for recycling. 

“It has the potential to create jobs, and in a time when people are looking for that or wanting new opportunities, I think it will be wonderful and more beneficial to the community than people assume,” she said. 

Nathaniel Mata