Drive to the Next Window, Please

On American Beach on South Amelia Island, Florida lives MaVynee Betsch, a woman of substance. Known by locals as “The Beach Lady,” Betsch has made it her full-time mission since 1975 to preserve and protect American Beach from development and destruction.

“We think it’s time to take recycling to a new level, to clean up its image,” says Sue Johnson of Ecology Action. Unlike municipal drop-off sites now common in many cities, where recyclers must do the work, Ecology Action’s drive-through is staffed by uniformed attendants who take recyclables from the participant’s car, sort them, and place them in the proper receptacles. The drive-through accepts everything from junk mail, newspapers, magazines, office paper, cardboard and paperboard, to aluminum, steel, metal cans, glass and plastics.

Ecology Action members say they’ve noticed a remarkable increase in traffic, as well as load size, since the drive-through operation began in 1995. “Many of our customers are individuals, not businesses, dropping off their recyclables on their way to work or on their lunch break,” says Max Woodfin of Ecology Action. “A typical recycler can be in and out of the center in about a minute.”

Bryan Hale, an Ecology Action user who had frequented a neighborhood collection center for years, says the differences at the full-service location were immediately noticeable. “It’s clean and pleasant, much easier on someone bringing things in. And the uniforms are a great touch,” Hale says.

Johnson says Ecology Action will continue working toward opening recycling venues to all city residents. In addition to setting up 27 smaller neighborhood recycling centers in multi-unit housing developments, Johnson says Ecology Action hopes to open full-service centers “in many neighborhoods over the next few years.”