The magic doesn't just happen! For this ECO issue, we wanted to find out more about the community leaders who look out for our clean streets and sustainability and help protect our envornoment. Enjoy this interview with Julie Barwig, Interim Director, City of Smyrna Environmental Services and Keep Smyrna Beautiful, Inc.
SVL: The group's mission is to bring together the resources of government, businesses, and residents to protect and improve the environment and the quality of life in our community. What are some initiatives you have for 2021?
JB: In order to achieve our mission, we concentrate our efforts to four focus areas: ending littering, reducing waste, promoting recycling, and beautifying Smyrna. We've already had our Bring One for the Chipper Christmas tree recycling event that recycled hundreds of trees, turning them into mulch, Arbor Day tree planting, multiple litter cleanups, and dozens of trees planted through our Adopt-a-Tree program. We'll be continuing litter cleanups throughout the year, providing community events like our document shredding event to reduce waste, marking storm drains to promote healthy waterways, and providing free tree seedlings to residents through our Adopt-a-Tree program.
SVL: I see some impressive figures for pounds of litter collected, paper diverted from landfill and trees chipped.
JB: While we had to scale back on a number of initiatives due to the pandemic, we were still able to be a positive force in the community. We picked up 5,204 lbs. of litter, recycled 5,445 trees, diverted 21,320 lbs. of documents, and marked 340 storm drains around the city.
SVL: Funds come from recycling revenues, sponsorships, and memberships. How can readers help, financially and by volunteering this month?
JB: Readers can support KSB through donations. We've transitioned out of a membership program and now are supported through individual donations as well as from the revenue from the Smyrna Recycling Center and sponsorships. They can donate at keepsmyrnabeautiful.com/donate/. Donations are crucial to continuing our work for the environment.
We'd love to have readers become volunteers! Currently, we're offering our volunteer opportunities in small groups and in April we'll have multiple litter cleanups that folks can participate in. Our Community Cleanups program targets litter on small areas of roadway. In April, we'll have two community cleanups that readers can attend. For dates, readers can visit keepsmyrnabeautiful.com/community-cleanups/.
SVL: What are some of the culprits with curbside recycling and how can homeowners help streamline recycling?
JB: One of the biggest issues in curbside recycling is what is called 'wish-cycling' which is when you put something your curbside bin with the hope that they will be recycled rather than ensuring that every item you put in your curbside bin is accepted. A few examples of common items that get put in the curbside bin when they shouldn't be are glass, plastic bags, and Styrofoam. Homeowners can streamline recycling by familiarizing themselves with what items can be recycled where and have separate bins for each. In Smyrna, there are a number of resources available to residents to increase the amount of material they recycle. Along with the curbside recycling program, the city has its own recycling center that accepts all sorts of items including those not accepted in curbside programs like glass jars and bottles, electronics, and large metal items. Residents with Smyrna curbside recycling can also participate in the Hefty® EnergyBag® Program, which collects previously hard-to-recycle plastics at curbside and converts them into valuable resources.
SVL: You have our attention and are the expert. What else would you like to share with our readers?
JB: One of our lesser-known programs is that we offer grants to schools located within the city for beautification, gardening, science, or education projects. Grants are up to $1,000 and schools can apply each school year.