Most aspects of my life have improved since I moved to Miami Beach over the summer. I’m nearer the ocean and a lovely public park, surrounded by good eateries and gawk-worthy women, and able to walk or ride my bike to most everywhere I want to go locally. The one downside to life on the Beach, however, is the difficulty of recycling, the most basic act of environmentalism.
Yes, there are recycling bins scattered across the city, but not enough. And in this age of heightened eco-conscientiousness, an ad-hoc drop-off system is hardly sufficient. Worse, it’s an embarrassment to a community that is so young and supposedly progressive as Miami Beach.
The condo I live in does not recycle — as a building with more than eight units, the city does not require it to. So every week, my plastics and other recyclables pile up in a bin under my sink until I can’t take it anymore. Sometimes I thrust them upon a visiting friend who lives in a part of Miami that does recycle. Sometimes I drive them to a drop-off spot. On occasion I’ve even stuffed them into a stranger’s recycling bin, an act of enviro-crime that makes me feel green in a bad way.
I realize the deficiency of Miami Beach’s recycling program has been covered in the past (see HERE, for example). But with the recent invasion of the Giant Pink Snails, which are made of recycled material and “designed to inspire a community-wide conversation about the importance of recycling and its environmental impact”, I figured this is the perfect time to enter the fray.
The timing is also good because of the opening last week of a “one-stop shop recycling drop-off station” at 210 Second Street and Collins Court (the alley between Washington and Collins). The result of the persistence and sweat of the Environmental Coalition of Miami Beach (ECOMB), the recycling center accepts all single-stream recyclables (glass, plastic, metal, paper, cardboard, magazines, junk mail, phone books, etc.) as well as all types of electronic waste, batteries, and compact fluorescent light bulbs.
“This is a major step,” Luiz Rodrigues, ECOMB’s indefatigable executive director, told me over the phone today.
Rodrigues is a veteran and pioneer of the push to make Miami Beach a greener place. When he first moved here from California ten years ago, he says he was “horrified at how behind we were.” Since then he has been working to get Miami Beach caught up.
“South Beach never really had much of an environmental or sustainable consciousness,” Rodrigues told me. “It was always a place for tourists, partying, the beach — a summer destination. It was a very transient community.”
But in recent years Rodrigues says he has seen a change as more people have moved into Miami Beach with the intention of sticking around. Naturally, permanent residents are willing to invest more in their own communities, and so the status quo vis-à-vis recycling and environmentalism in general is evolving, particularly at the political level.
“We have a much larger group of residents who are here permanently who really care about the beach and the environment,” said Rodrigues. “And more politicians coming into City Hall are becoming aware of it.”
The recycling center — the result of a partnership of ECOMB, the city, and others — is proof of Miami Beach’s growing eco-consciousness. But Rodrigues knows it is not enough. Nor, he says, will an invasion of giant pink mollusks necessarily make Miami Beach a greener place.
“It’s an amazing project,” Rodrigues said, “but it will only have a great impact if it is restated over and over again that the snails are made of recycled materials, that you can actually use recycled materials to create art.”
The next step in Miami Beach’s slow crawl toward 21st century environmentalism is a new recycling ordinance, which Rodrigues says will be based on the strictest rules in Florida. As for the recycling center, it is currently housed in one room of the Miami Beach Center for the Environment, but Rodrigues says it will eventually be incorporated into a larger, multipurpose environmental center.
All of this depends in large part on Rodrigues’s ability to convince the city and Miami Beach’s growing resident population that they cannot stop now. With years of hard-fought activism behind him, he is confident he can do it.
“People know me for not giving up and being very persistent,” Rodrigues told me. “It’s been taking years and years trying to achieve some of our goals, but I feel we are finally achieving many of them. We need to have perseverance.”
Click HERE for more information on the recycling drop-off station, and see below for a map of the location.
View Miami Beach Recycling Drop-Off Station in a larger map