Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Re-Cycles program closing after 9 years

Posted on June 20, 2013 at 1:00 a.m. | Updated on June 20, 2013 at 1:50 p.m.

GOSHEN —The Goshen Re-Cycles program is being kicked to the curb.

On May 30, Ray Collins, executive director of Chain Reaction Bicycle Project, announced that the curbside recycling service will be closing. The program will hold its last pickup on Wednesday, June 26.

For nine years, Chain Reaction at 113 West Jefferson St., Goshen, has run the program. Up to 100 customers each year have benefited from the service, including residents, downtown businesses and elementary schools. It relies on employees who pick up recyclables on bicycles twice a month.

According to Collins and Kathy Nofziger Yeakey, administrative coordinator, the strongest factors behind the program’s termination are a lack of consistent riders and poor customer service.

Re-Cycles intentionally hires riders who are “chronically unemployed” or in “short-term unemployment,” Nofziger Yeakey said.

Though Re-Cycle’s hiring procedure has been a deliberate effort to combat unemployment, Nofziger Yeakey said it has formed challenges over the years.

One challenge since the economy has strengthened, she said, has been a high turnover rate of riders. When there are many new riders, it takes time to introduce them to the system.

“We were having people who did not know all the routes,” Nofziger Yeakey said.

A lack of commitment to the program has come alongside the turnover rate, Nofziger Yeakey said.

Some riders had begun to skip pick-up points and leave bottles in the recycle bins. In one case, a rider dumped his share of recyclables in the woods, Nofziger Yeakey said. When riders were careless, Chain Reaction staff members were responsible for completing the route.

Many customers began to complain, flooding Chain Reaction with emails and telephone calls.

“It was a red flag that it was time to make a change,” Nofziger Yeakey said. “In the long run the program was just not feasible.”

Nofziger Yeakey says Re-Cycles’ need in the community is decreasing since Borden Waste-Away began to provide a similar service. When Re-Cycles originally started, it was the only curbside program of its kind.

Though Collins announced the program’s termination in May, meetings this month looked into the possibility of the Elkhart County Clubhouse at 114 S. Fifth St. in Goshen to take over Re-Cycles. The Clubhouse offers education and support to people living with persistent mental illness.

Chain Reaction approached the Clubhouse wondering if the organization could provide them with dependable workers.

Though Rich Meyer, director of the Clubhouse, said the Clubhouse could have provided workers, Chain Reaction ultimately decided it was not capable of continuing the administrative side of the program. The proposal was dropped on June 19.

“There are no hard feelings,” Meyer said. “I’m glad to have had a chance to see if we could help with part of their need.”

Kathy Meyer Reimer of Goshen has subscribed to the service since its beginning. She sees its end with sadness.

“Occasionally there were times that things didn’t happen,” Meyer Reimer said. “But I’m grateful for the inventive, entrepreneurial way people tried to pull something together that filled a niche and a purpose.”

“It was a wonderful program around a wonderful idea.”

Nofziger Yeakey says she cannot see the program coming back in the future in a similar form. She believes the riders, who were paid according to the number of recycle bins per route, will be able to move on and find other employment opportunities.

The Re-Cycle program will terminate after its final route on June 26. Current subscribers have been promised a refund for half of their payment for the three months recycling will not take place. Subscribers are encouraged to talk to Collins at collins.rcollins@gmail.com with questions.