STARKVILLE – When Stan Shurden and Joe Bell began a little company called Starkville Recycling back in 2004, some people thought they were crazy.
It was a small, one building operation off C.C. Clark Road with a dirt floor and only Bell at the helm. Large-scale recycling programs had been tried in Starkville at least twice before – once by the city’s Sanitation Department and once by Community Counseling Services – but both efforts were short-lived, Shurden said.
Yet, the father and son duo were determined to make their company a success. So they set up shop and began to collect residents’ recyclables.
“When we first opened, people just laughed at us,” Shurden said.
These days, after five years of expansions, fluctuating markets and nearly a dozen additional employees, Shurden and Bell can’t help but smile when talking about how far they’ve come.
Starkville Recycling processes an average of 85 tons of recyclable materials per month, from cardboard and plastics to paper and computers, and has played a pivotal role in the city’s sustainability efforts.
The company has recycling drop-off locations set up around town and, last fall, began a curbside pickup program in the Plantation Homes community. Starkville Recycling also processes recyclables and wood waste from several businesses in the city, including Flexsteel, Coca Cola and Southwire.
Now, the company is playing an even larger role in the city’s efforts to go green.
The city’s Board of Aldermen last week approved a curbside recycling program that calls on the Sanitation Department to pick up items from homes around the city, then take the materials to Starkville Recycling for sorting and processing. The curbside pickup program will be available to more than 6,000 homes throughout the city.
In the minds of many Starkvillians, including Shurden and Bell, the curbside program is one more green initiative in a city that has become increasingly dedicated to sustainable living.
“What the city is doing now is a big step forward,” Bell said.
A curbside recycling program has been on the wish lists of many Starkville residents for years, but became a citywide priority last summer when the Board of Aldermen passed a sustainability policy. The policy obligated the city to cut down on waste, save energy, and operate more efficiently.
Part of the policy called for the initiation of a curbside recycling program. Thanks to the efforts of Aldermen Sumner Davis and P.C. “Mac” McLaurin, coupled with rising energy costs and a growing community movement, the citywide curbside program is set to begin before the end of the year.
“There are certain things that, with the confluence of events and the timing of things, come together and just make it the right thing to do, and I think now is the time,” Spruill said of the sustainability policy, curbside recycling and growing green movement in the city. “I still think it’s unfortunate that we’re the first city in the state of Mississippi with a sustainability policy, but it’s nice to be leading the charge.”
“I would hope that one day everybody else would come along, and I think they will, but it’s one of those movements that begins and it snowballs, from the price of gas to the cost of building to the cost of heating and cooling, and all the things rolled into the community’s effort,” Spruill continued. “Along with the new presidential efforts, I think it’s created a strong groundswell and I think the community is ready for that. Because we’re a college community, I think we’re ready for these kinds of sustainability efforts.”
Spruill said she has been contacted by officials in other cities who wanted to know more about the sustainability policy and other efforts going on in Starkville. And city officials, both in government and in the business sector, are trying to capitalize on the growing reputation for green living.
“It is very important for industries that are looking to come into an area,” said Allison Matthews, vice president of membership and community development for the Greater Starkville Development Partnership. “They value communities that have green policies. So we not only want to embrace these green policies, but show the outside world that Starkville is a green community and has these environmental policies. Most companies that are looking for locations, they are taking that into account, very much so. So we’re trying to market that aspect of our community.”
Starkville Recycling has been in talks with Paccar about the company’s goal of producing zero landfill waste at its facility under construction in western Lowndes County, though the two sides have not yet reached an agreement, Bell said.
Additionally, recycling efforts and green policies are an indication of a high quality-of-life, which is something companies look for when searching for a site to build a facility, Spruill said.
Spruill has been instrumental in shaping greener city policies, along with City Engineer Edward Kemp and Mayor Dan Camp.
As part of the sustainability policy drawn up by Spruill, all newly constructed city-owned buildings more than 3,000-square-feet now are required to meet standards set by the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design rating system. The new Starkville Electric Building, which just broke ground in recent weeks on Lafayette Street, was designed to meet LEED standards. The building will conserve energy and save the city money, Spruill said.
“The whole green effort makes sense for a lot of reasons,” Spruill said. “You’re doing some good for the environment, but you’re also cutting down on energy costs and waste.”
Although Spruill has been a strong advocate of sustainability, the city’s residents also have pushed for greener policies.
Nisreen Cain is the founder of Green Starkville, an organization promoting a healthy planet and healthy lifestyles, as well as sustainable living and recycling, among other things.
Although Green Starkville is only two years old, Cain also has seen interest grow in sustainable living since the organization was founded. She believes increased citizen interest has even helped shape city policy, which has veered more toward environmental awareness in the past year.
Young and old in the city have joined groups like Green Starkville and Starkville In Motion to promote healthy lifestyles and environmentally conscious living. They also push for bicycle paths and better sidewalks for residents.
The Center for Advanced Vehicular Systems at Mississippi State University has built a national award-winning hybrid vehicle and is working on designing hybrid patrol cars for the university’s police department and the Starkville Police Department.
The Starkville Community Market kicked off last year and brought together farmers and artisans from around the area, with a focus on locally grown products. The market grew to be highly popular on South Lafayette Street every Saturday morning.
Several local eateries, like the Little Building Café, serve only locally grown food.
And the city is in talks with MSU, Oktibbeha County and the Greater Starkville Development Partnership to sign an agreement to promote sustainable living.
“It’s just a very exciting time here right now,” Cain said of the green efforts underway in Starkville. “There’s a lot going on.”
More local efforts
Around the Golden Triangle, the city of West Point has applied for state funds to set up recycling drop-off locations around town, but has not received word on whether they will receive any money.
Meanwhile in Columbus, Triangle Maintenance Services has 17 big blue recycling drop-off locations set up around the city, though no curbside pickup program is in place. The company also recycles materials for businesses and manufacturing operations looking to save on landfill expenses.
“There are so many companies that are interested in recycling, interested in putting some green initiative in pla
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