Residents protest for recycling center

Residents protesting the closure of the city’s recycling center gathered in the parking lot across from city hall. They posted signs on their cars and some stood next to the vehicles with signs in support of recycling.

HARLINGEN — With an old Hawaiian luau party theme, Kate McSwain decorated her car to look as green as possible as she parked across from Harlingen City Hall.

McSwain was part of a protest Wednesday organized by new group Reinvent Harlingen Recycling, while city commissioners decided on an “action plan” regarding the city’s recycling program.

McSwain was one of many who decorated their cars and painted their windows in support of the center. “Don’t be trashy” and “Why are recycling bins optimistic? Because they can!” read a few of them.

The protest was convened by Reinvent Harlingen Recycling, which was founded by Christy Tovar, a Harlingen resident.

The group was created two weeks ago, after Tovar and others learned the recycling center could possibly be closed permanently. Because of it, she and other concerned residents came up with ideas to generate a public response.

“ Closure is not something we want to see. We want to see the center funded,” Tovar said.

After attending a recycling workshop, the organization was created. Tovar said asking questions or getting questions answered by city officials has been hard.

“ The funds are available right now but before we can even tackle some of the problems the city presented, we first need to fund the recycling center,” Tovar said.

For her another important task to conquer is letting more people in the community know there is a recycling center.

“ We need to be creative in terms of finding outlets for recycling rather than landfilling it,” she said.

“ It’s going to take more effort than people want to expend right now. If we send it somewhere else then we aren’t taking responsibility for our waste and it is no longer our problem,” Tovar said.

One alternative she suggested is creating compost and creating sand from glass.

“ We are concerned the sanitation fund is being misused and we understand there are budget needs but it’s a misuse to use the sanitation fund to buy those things,” she said.

Tovar agreed in having the center closed during the pandemic but stressed closing permanently is not the best fit for Harlingen.

Debra Warner, 69, saw the organization posted on the Harlingen Explore Blog on Facebook. Warner was involved in the Keep Harlingen Beautiful program in the 1990s and was president of Harlingen Proud.

“ I have been committed to recycling for a long, long time. I am pretty concerned about the future of the planet and natural resources. There is no planet B, there is no place else to go, you can’t just move to a new planet and start over,” she said.

Warner also believes recycling is needed to stop filling up landfills and wants other alternatives to continue doing so. Warner added the promotion of the center for education has not been as active.

“ We tried really hard on the education because it does matter,” Warner said.

“ These are things that cannot be ignored. I hope to see some creative things, plastic recycled to be used for benches and city parks, there is no reason why these things can’t be done. We don’t own this earth, we are borrowing it from our grandchildren and it should be treated that way,” she said.

Blanca Villarreal, a retired school teacher, stood alongside Tyler Avenue to protest as well. Villarreal had a recycling club since 1995 and because of the success it had in the past, she stresses it’s important to keep the conversation going.

Her daughter told her about the protest and she decided to attend to make people aware.

Joe Martinez stopped by and asked Villarreal what was happening and where he could recycle.

“ We are very behind,” Villarreal said.

JV Garcia, advocate for solving the flood crisis in Cameron County, attended with his family.

Cars continued to pass by and honked to express solidarity among the protesters and so did Garcia.

“ Recycling such as pulverizing glass can actually be used as media filter for bioswales that are used to mitigate flood,” he said.

“ Why are we always fifty years behind the curve, why don’t we have some change for once and actually be a leader. Enough is enough” Garcia.

His wife Jessica said the fight goes further than keeping the center open.

“ Why aren’t we fighting for blue trash cans in front of our houses? We are so far behind we need to just catch up. McAllen didn’t stop for the pandemic. Their recycling is still being picked up and ours is piling up in our garage,” she said.

ecavazos@valleystar.com