"After Christmas I noticed that the alley trash dumpsters were overflowing and people were leaving trash next to them," commented Mary Ann Keitel, a Soulard resident since 1975. "The neighborhood was looking like a third world country," she adds.
"The only way to abate this problem that I could see was to get on the recycling bandwagon," she says, and "I had to get my neighbors to do the same thing."
Because of City of St. Louis budgetary problems, twice weekly trash collections are being reduced to once a week, Mary Ann learned after a short conversation with the Department of Streets, Refuse Division vehicle driver.
"So I started intensely recycling," she explains. Fortunately, as part of an extensive and thoughtful effort, the Refuse Division provides a row of dumpsters at the foot of Ann in Soulard for collection of recyclables. "And I started talking to my neighbors, asking them if they would help me," Mary Ann notes. She lives in the 2300 block of S. 11th Street.
Fran Cook, a Soulard resident for the last 7 years, immediately agreed that this was a good idea.
"I could see that the dumpsters contained a lot of stuff which could be recycled, and if we separated these items and took them to the provided dumpsters, then maybe we could reduce the problem of trash spilling into the alley," Fran believes. She is married and has two children.
She spent 21 years in the neighborhood while growing up. After she got married, she moved out to the county for a while before returning seven years ago.
"We are in this together," Fran observes, pointing out that "I am also talking to others in my building and to neighbors, just as Mary Ann is doing."
Going beyond her block, Mary Ann also solicited the assistance of Shirley Cartt-Cyr, 75, a homeowner on Sidney. "I am going to recycle with Mary Ann’s help," Shirley says. She adds that
"I sure wish the politicians were pitching in and working as hard as Mary Ann on this, since they seem to be the ones who spent all the money."
She adds: "Be that as it may, we all sort of need to pull together in tough times, to help each other, just like Mary Ann is doing." Meanwhile, Mary Ann has recruited others on her block, and she hopes other Soulard and City of St. Louis residents will step up their recycle efforts and encourage their neighbors to do the same.
Seventh Ward resident Maida Coleman, a community activist, observes that "what Mary Ann is doing is an excellent idea. She is coming up with solutions to make this new trash collection schedule work for everyone."
Maida says that "as city residents, we have to support the city in order to keep our services up to standard. We are all going to have to do a little bit more," she warns.