Clearwater: Volunteers conclude long-running recycling program

Red Williamson volunteers at the Clearwater Recycle Center in 2017. Changes in the economy of the recycling industry spelled the end of the long-running volunteer project.

By Sam Jack
The Times-Sentinel

CLEARWATER – America’s recycling industry has been “in the dumps” since last year, when China stopped accepting imports of recyclable materials from the United States.

Across the country, the market value of recyclables has gone down dramatically. That decline has made many recycling operations economically unfeasible – including a local, volunteer-run operation, the Clearwater Recycle Center.

Clearwater’s Masons and Boy Scouts jointly ran the center. Longtime volunteers said they were disappointed to see their project end, but still proud of the difference they made.

Howard Walker, Boy Scout Troop 898’s former scoutmaster and lead recycling volunteer, said helping with recycling helped his scouts live out the Scout Oath, in which scouts promise to do their best “to help other people at all times.”

“The boys enjoyed doing it; they got along with it fine,” he said. “It kept that stuff out of the landfill.”

Red Williamson, the lead volunteer on the project for the Masons, noted that many of the Masons who helped out came in from Wichita in order to do so. Now the group is thinking about other ways they could help the city of Clearwater.

“Four or five of us met with Ron Marsh the other day, and he came up with some suggestions,” Williamson said. “We’ll see what we can do.”

Marsh, Clearwater’s city administrator, said the Recycle Center was a great service for residents.

“Even before Waste Connections started their single-stream recycling, it gave the citizens a place to take that recycling and not add to the problems of landfills. I think it was extremely valuable. If there was any way they could keep it going, they’d do it,” Marsh said. “Unfortunately it’s not feasible anymore, but it’s been a huge blessing for the citizens.”

Clearwater residents that are in city limits still have a curbside recycling option included in their utility service. County residents and businesses should contact their refuse provider, or visit www.recyclewichita.org for more information on the PRo Kansas Recycling Center in south Wichita.