Thursday, August 23, 2012

Make a Difference—Do What One Person Can Do

Make a Difference—Do What One Person Can Do
When I first joined the City Council in Harlem, my friend Victor Miller, Blaine County Commissioner, told me to go to meetings, all kinds of meetings. He said that I would eventually settle into one or two organizations which most interested me. So when I saw a meeting announced, I showed up. Why? Education. I learned a bit and knew where to go when I needed more information. Consequently, a potpourri of meeting schedules began to show up in my monthly Council packet.

One afternoon I drove to Havre for my first Unified Disposal Board meeting. Within minutes I knew I had found my abiding interest. Garbage. And if you saw my home, you might think, “Uh huh, I can see that.” My entire house is furnished and decorated with junk, albeit revamped, refurbished, gussied up artistic junque. But this isn’t about me.        
At that point I was still painting and flooring and otherwise working on my house, one room at a time. As I finished each room, I unpacked the hordes of cardboard boxes holding furnishings and furbelows, broke down the cardboard to recycle, and . . . here my story gets ugly.

“Where do I take this stuff to be recycled?” I asked around town.

I heard: “We don’t recycle.” “What is recycle?” “Maybe in Havre.” 

“You mean I have to drive to Havre to recycle?” My question was answered with shrugs.

Meanwhile I had purchased several thirty-gallon trash cans in which to store assorted plastics, aluminum, metal and paper. I planned to periodically haul them to, you guessed it, Havre.
By the time my house renovations were nearly complete, I had accumulated a small mountain of cardboard, about the size of Saddle Butte, flattened, stacked and sorted by relative size. I loaded my van and drove to Havre. I stopped at the various places that had been suggested as possibles and maybes.

I heard, “No, not us.” “We used to but it is too expensive.”  “Maybe later but not now.” “You best take it to the dump.”

In the wind and the cold and the drifting snow and flapping plastic bags, I sailed cardboard after cardboard into a garbage at the Havre landfill, flinching with each toss of a box. Later, people in Harlem laughed at me for driving all the way to Havre when I should have known there is a perfectly good container site up the hill in Harlem. Ha, ha.
Several months later I loaded up my thirty-gallon cans, now full, and hauled them to Havre. The story was a rerun. My carefully sorted recyclables landed in the landfill. I felt defeated, my efforts gone for naught.

At the same time, unbeknownst to me, a woman named Candi Zion and her friends were gearing up for a new venture. They call it Recycle Hi-Line. With unrelenting dedication, these tenacious pioneers have paved the way to “recycle heaven” in Havre. They have partnered with various local businesses and the Unified Disposal Board to make “recycle” a household word.
Today, a mere six years later, my story would be different. Pacific Steel, the Havre Day Activity Center, and Battery Warehouse at Havre Muffler and Brake, all accept cardboard. When I drive out to the landfill south of Havre, thanks to the efforts of Recycle Hi-Line and the UDB, I can find containers dedicated to tires, metal, and wood. Throughout Havre I can easily find places to dispose of all my recyclables, including eye glasses, batteries and phone books. For a complete list, check the latest at

So a couple weeks ago, I figured it is time somebody in Harlem started talking about recycling.  Not being interested in re-inventing the wheel, and in order to gather more information and to elicit help, I showed up at a Recycle Hi-Line meeting. These folks made me feel like I was coming home. I was warmly welcomed, immediately given a task, included in all discussions and knew I had signed up for a lifetime membership.

Saturday I am hauling, among other things, my old computer to the corner of 1st Street and 5th Avenue where Pacific Steel and Recycling will be accepting E-waste free of charge from 8:00 to noon. You can be the first person on your block to recycle monitors, copiers, keyboards, game boxes, scanners, printers, flash cards, TV sets, towers, cell phones, rechargeable batteries, cable boxes, laptops, ipods or any similar electronic device. Candi says, “If it runs off electricity or has memory, bring it.” 
Sondra Ashton
HDN: Looking out my back door
August 2, 2012

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