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Launching a new recycling program takes time, commitment and education — and residents of Fayetteville’s Butterfield Trail Village are putting in the work.

Several enthusiastic volunteers over the past several months have been laying the foundation for a newly ambitious recycling operation at the senior living community. Curbside pickup service for all of the homes and cottages started for the first time a few weeks ago, plus apartment residents are joining in one floor at a time. Last week the community also hosted a presentation by the city’s environmental educators about how the city’s recycling works and why it’s worth the effort.

In all, around 400 property residents can connect to the city’s recycling program right at home or soon will be able to do so.

“I’d never been so excited to see a recycle truck come through the neighborhood,” said Dennis Nelson, who chairs the resident recycling committee overseeing the project. “Our recycling is a drop in the bucket, but it’s the right bucket.”

Dennis Nelson shows the recycling room now used by the first floor of one of Butterfield Trail Village’s apartment wings. Residents can use tote bags or other containers to bring their cans and bottles to the bins in this room, which then go to the curb each week for the city to pick up.

Butterfield Trail Village previously hosted one of the city’s “battleship” containers, essentially a long, compartmentalized roll-off dumpster for cans, bottles and so on. COVID-19 put the city’s residential recycling program on hiatus in 2020, however, and many residents used the city’s drop-off centers instead, if they recycled at all.

Nelson and his wife moved in from Arizona last May with “boxes galore and a lot of crap,” as he put it. So he started connecting with interested neighbors and city educators Heather Ellzey and Taylor Gladwin to find a way to kickstart recycling again. Since then residents have converted pantries and storage rooms into recycling stations, and the city has dropped off more than 140 recycling bins and tote bags.

More than 50 people attended Ellzey and Gladwin’s presentation, which discussed the importance of using resources in a sustainable way, so future generations can meet their needs, and laid out the right materials to recycle (metal cans, plastic and glass bottles, cardboard and paper).

Fayetteville environmental educator Heather Ellzey (right) speaks with Dennis Nelson (center) following the city’s recycling presentation last week. Educator Taylor Gladwin (second from left) is in the background talking to another Butterfield Trail Village resident.

“Something is always a start,” Ellzey said, explaining the message behind the city’s longstanding “Recycle Something” awareness campaign.

Many in attendance were ready, even impatient, to do more than just something. Helen McElree called for a halt to the use of polystyrene to-go boxes in the dining room, and another resident urged everyone to bring their own reusable containers for leftovers. Several asked questions like where recycled materials go (the answer is on the city’s website) and how residents might be able to compost food waste — and why is the apartment recycling rolling out so slowly, anyway?

“This is a really big project,” Ellzey responded, so organizers want to avoid overwhelming staff, management and residents themselves. “Luckily it’s going really well.”