Recycling center continues to serve Bella Vista
While some volunteers are running machinery and picking up cardboard, another group meets in a small office for an hour a month and makes the decisions that keep the Bella Vista Recycling Center running smoothly. The board of directors of the Bella Vista Recycling Center Foundation is made up of seven volunteers.
The center was started as part of the local AARP chapter in 1973. The chapter is now inactive, but the Recycle Center is going strong with its own board.
Before 2012, the center was completely operated by volunteers, but now there are several people who work as contracted laborers alongside the volunteers. Unfortunately, that takes some money away from the grants the center gives out each month.
At last week’s meeting, board member Wally Sheldon said he planned to speak to Mayor Peter Christie about a possible source of labor. When the new Bella Vista Court opens and people are assigned community service, they could be sent to the Recycle Center, Sheldon said. Other towns in the area have a policy like that, he said. He hoped that Christie could speak to the judge and push for that policy.
Sheldon has volunteered with the Recycling Center since about 1997 when the center was located near the Lake Ann Dam. He’s been on the board since about 1999.
Although he wasn’t working there those first few years, Sheldon researched the Center’s history and found some interesting facts.
Proceeds from the Recycle Center paid much of the original furnishing at Riordan Hall, including the first curtain for the stage, the first chairs and much of the kitchen equipment.
At that point, volunteers used their own personal vehicles, he said, and the center owned two balers. They baled plastic in a baler that measured 18 by 18. There was no running water at the original site, so volunteers had to bring their own water for coffee and use a portable toilet. The Recycle Center moved to its current location in 2001 and added new balers.
When Sheldon started, the center was donating funds, but it didn’t have the formal grant program that provides funds based on the number of hours worked by volunteers at a nonprofit. Instead, he remembered, representatives from various nonprofits would just show up at board meetings with their requests. When that became unmanageable, the recycling volunteers turned to the AARP chapter for help.
For a time in the early 2000s, the AARP chapter averaged 100 members at each meeting and it formed a grant review committee that made recommendations to the AARP board. If the board agreed, the entire chapter voted on the grants. As active members of the AARP chapter dwindled, the Foundation Board had to step in and take back the grant process. Now the treasurer looks at the volunteer hours dedicated to each approved nonprofit and makes a recommendation. The board must vote to approve.
The Fly Tyers, Sheldon said, was among the first local groups to get recycling grants and continue to receive them. They spend the recycling money on community projects, like fish habitat in the lakes and fish cleaning stations.
“We even recycle the money,” Sheldon said.
Rae Jean Hester, the board’s treasurer, showed the rest of the board an updated flier that contains information about the Center, including hours and the materials accepted. She is also working on an updated website.
The new flier and the updated website will emphasize what materials the center accepts and which ones it doesn’t accept.
“The buyers make the rules,” President Paul Poulides said.
Not all plastic can be accepted, for example. The Center can use only plastics labeled #1 (transparent water and soda bottles, either clear or with a green tint) or #2 (transparent milk jugs or colored opaque bottles such as detergent bottles.)
One of the volunteer jobs at the center is to make sure the bins are filled with only the items that can be baled and sold together. If a volunteer fishes out the wrong kind of plastic, it has to be thrown away and that just adds to the center’s trash bill.
But since there are volunteers checking the bins, Bella Vista has a reputation for selling only pure products.
“If we were a dairy, all our products would be Grade A,” Sheldon said.
“If we were a dairy, all our products would be Grade A." Wally Sheldon Bella Vista Recycling Center board member
Members of the Recycle Center’s Foundation Board are all volunteers. They meet once a month to approve expenses — including grants — and talk about issues ranging from a volunteer dinner to liability insurance. Pictured are Chuck Seeley, Wally Sheldon, Bud Taylor, Rae Jean Hester and Paul Poulides.