Talking Trash in Jonesboro

August 6, 2003 - Posted at: 8:35 p.m. CDT

JONESBORO, Ark. -- Environmentalists and trend-setters are working on making Region 8 a healthier place to live.

It used to be, at one point, that New York and several other states were considering shipping their waste to Arkansas because of the vast land.

Those times have changed because of an aggressive recycling campaign, according to Robert Hunter with the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality.

"We are ahead of all of the surrounding states and part of that comes from the fact that our legislators realized 20 years ago that we had to do something about solid waste," said Hunter.

Legislators decided to invest money in educating the public about recycling, and today the state's recycling rate is just above the national average. However, there's still a long way to go, according to Judith Long with the Craighead County Solid Waste Management.

"Recycling was much more fashionable, and there was much more passion about it," said Long. "Like the hula hoop, and some other fads, it seems to have had diminished."

On Tuesday, summer teachers from Region 8 got a lesson on the environment to pass along to their students from the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality. The Blue Bag program, which is a recycling program in Craighead County, was high on their curriculum.

"The awareness is there and the participation has increased, but we're a long way away from meeting our goals that nationally we would like to meet," said Long. "The future is on their hands. How many landfills do we want?

"Can't we keep more out of the landfill to make better use of our land?"

Because, after all, land is a terrible thing to waste.