Growing alternative recycling methods


Thora Pearson

art by Thora Pearson

Every week, families around Kirkwood roll their green recycling bins out to the curb. Every week those recyclables are loaded onto a plane and flown across the world to China where they’re processed. As China raised its restrictions on the contamination level of recyclables, Kirkwood’s recycling services experienced a major blow. Keeping in mind there may be future issues with single stream recycling, here are four different ways to get rid of your recyclables.  


Curbside recycling in Kirkwood began in 2011. Prior, people either didn’t recycle, paid for private pick-up or had to separate their recyclables into categories and drive them to the nearest depository. The depository, Francis-Scheidegger, is located in the heart of Kirkwood at 350 South Taylor Avenue, and was one of the first recycling spots in the entire St. Louis area. The depository is open 24/7 and takes paper, certain plastics, glass, tin and more. Scheidegger has users separate their recyclables into labeled bins, and doesn’t accept styrofoam, batteries or hazardous waste.


Artists tend to not like throwing things away, so we use everything. It’s not that hard to set [recyclables] to the side and give it to somebody. It’s helpful. It saves us money. It’s good all around.”

— Benben

Certain teachers at school are more than happy to take students’ waste and reuse it. Leslie Benben, art teacher, said students are welcome to ask her or other art staff if they will take recyclables for personal projects or classes.

“Artists tend to not like throwing things away, so we use everything,” Benben said. “It’s not that hard to set [recyclables] to the side and give it to somebody. It’s helpful. It saves us money. It’s good all around.”

In her class, Benben has used old yogurt cups, ripped sheets, stale Halloween candy, broken furniture, toilet paper tubes and more. One specific item she would love to receive is styrofoam. Styrofoam isn’t recyclable, but Benben said the material is perfect for reuse when making prints and carvings. If a student doesn’t have the time to drive to the Kirkwood Depository, they should stop by and see if an art teacher could use some new mediums to work with.


Mandy Melton, biology teacher, sponsors The Environmental Society of Kirkwood, a club dedicated to educating others on how to help the environment. Members in the past have focused on starting a recycling and composting program at the high school, improving the school’s air quality with gardens and attempting to alter the flow of KHS traffic so cars would spend less time idling in the parking lots. After hearing Kirkwood might soon stop collecting curbside recycling, Melton wants students to understand there are other ways to cut down on their carbon footprints. She said students can buy their own metal straws to reuse, their own reusable grocery bags and their own water bottles to avoid sending plastic to the landfill.


Forest Park remains a hot spot for festivals such as Loufest and Earth Day, but a lesser known Forest Park festival is the Recycling Extravaganza. The biannual festival hosts booths that take unusual recyclables. From bikes to makeup, the booths collect many items the city won’t.

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Each April and September the event is set up in the parking lot of St. Louis Community College, and next year’s first festival will take place April 18. Bob Byrne and Nanka Castulik, a married couple passionate about the environment, attended the festival for the first time last September. They described the festival as convenient and perfect for people who need to get rid of uncommon recyclables. Byrne and Castulik said they loaded up their car and literally went the extra mile to recycle because they believe everyone needs to dispose of waste responsibly.

“To me [recycling] is an extension of maintaining your home,” Castulik said. “The Earth is our home, it’s home to everyone who lives here, and if we want our larger home to be habitable, we need to be more responsible about what we’re throwing away.”