A Greener, Cleaner RGV

MCALLEN, Texas - Over the past years there has been a surge of programs and initiatives in the Rio Grande Valley to make the region a greener and environmental friendly place to live.

Although there has been a good amount of people trying to turn the valley greener, there are some that still aren't recycling properly or helping preserve the environment.

In “A Greener, Cleaner RGV” News Center 23's Jose Saenz tells us what some cities, schools, and local organizations are doing to get more residents of the RGV into the habit of recycling and preserving our environment.

From bags full of trash, to old clothing, you can find many disposable items in a pile of garbage.

There's only one problem. A lot of trash ends up at the McAllen Recycling Center.

Getting more residents to recycle properly has been an ongoing battle for the city since the curbside recycling program began 22 years ago.

Delilah Martinez, Environmental Education Manager said, "Right now we have about 35,000 accounts here in the city of McAllen. Roughly about 30% of our residents recycle right now."

The McAllen Recycling Center says nearly 150 tons of disposed material are collected every week from the blue recycle bins residents have.

This has lead the city to start a new program where they will penalize residents who are misusing the recycle bins by taking the bin away. Residents will also see an additional $10.50 tacked on to their collection fees if they fail to pass more than two inspections.

McAllen Public Works Officials say the hardest part of all this is getting residents to change their recycling habits.

Delilah Martinez, Environmental Education Manager added, "I think there's two components to any campaign or any program. How to change human behavior, that is the challenge with us. Education is part of it, and getting that information out there to our residents on how to recycle properly. In our case we've added that second component which is compliance of it. For those that just do not want to recycle, it's a voluntary program. We'll exchange that blue bin with a black bin."

Some people say programs like the one McAllen, won't be of much help unless people are getting educated about recycling. Especially the youth.

Mario Bracanmontes, Buell Central High School Principal says, "It all starts with education. If the schools are not educating students on which recycling is the good recycling, about clean energy and sustainability, then why go out there and give out all these recycling bins? A lot of the population is not going to know what it's about. They're going to say it's just another trash can, and I don't blame a lot of these people. But if this would go into education, and we start going all the way from kinder all the way up, then that problem would not be happening."

Over at Buell Central High School, Principal Bracamontes and the students are trying to make the school go fully green. Students are going green in the classroom by studying Solar Power Energy, Wind Turbine Energy, and Aquaponics Farming. All through hands on learning. Everything at their school is being repurposed.

Students have been able to build their own air conditioners, a green house, and a hydroponics room from recycled material. Bracamontes says that at this rate, students can save the school district some money on energy in the near future.

Principal Bracamontes says, "What they're doing right now, is the future. And with clean energy, you see all the global warming and other things that are happening, so our kids are very aware of that. So that's why they're going into clean energy. They're saying, you know what, we're wasting too much energy, we have a lot of budget crunches in the State of Texas with the school districts. So what our kids are doing is telling the district is 'Hey if you go our way, if you go clean energy, solar panel, wind turbine, you could save all this money. You can hire more teachers. You can hire more parents'."

Although the students are doing big projects at this school, one of them says the small things can also go a long way.

Student, Alejandro Guzman says, "There's just little things that you can do, and those little things are the ones being noticed the most, for example, littering is just a little thing that you think you can get away with, but in reality you're the one harming your own self. If you litter, there will be lots of contamination around, especially nowadays, and that really harms our environment."

The valley may not be the most green region in the State of Texas, but some say progress is already being made.

Wayne Lowry, Board President for Keep Harlingen Beautiful, "We are catching up with other communities as far as our recycling efforts. I know in Harlingen there's a lot of emphasis on recycling. Bringing your cans, bottles, and cardboard to the recycling center. Processing it and putting the profits from that back in the community."

Principal Bracamontes added, "Most of the stuff we have here, 75% of the stuff we made was recycled. We didn't pay a penny for it. That's the beauty of this."

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would like to remind you that one can helps save enough energy to run a television set for two hours.

If you have recyclable items and don't know where to take them, you can always contact your respective city office to get more information.


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