Over the years, Van Buren’s recycling effort has evolved from a grassroots effort to a voluntary program which diverted about 203 tons of recyclable materials from the landfill in 2016.

A group of community leaders including Dorvan Wiley and Donna Parker launched Van Buren’s recycling program during the late 1980s, according to Steve Dufresne, director of Van Buren Municipal Utilities.

In an effort to reduce the amount of garbage being taken to the landfill and conserve natural resources, the group established Van Buren’s first drop-off recycling program in the parking lot of a grocery store on East Main Street, Dufresne said.

“On Saturdays, citizens could deliver old newspapers to volunteers who would fill a tractor trailer to be delivered to a paper manufacturer for reuse,” he said.

Prior to 1993 the city did not have a formal collection program for residential garbage or recycling.

“Residents would hire a hauler and pay them directly,” Dufresne said. “Many residents would accumulate garbage on their property and periodically take it to the landfill themselves.”

In January 1993, in an effort to help clean up Van Buren’s neighborhoods, reduce truck traffic on residential streets and have the future capability of establishing a curbside recycling program, the City of Van Buren implemented its first mandatory residential sanitation collection program.

Dufresne said the program was established by city ordinance and is overseen by Van Buren Municipal Utilities.

Residents are billed for sanitation services on the monthly water and sewer bill.

Also in 1993, the first official recycle drop-off center opened for City of Van Buren residents to deliver items such as newspapers, office paper, magazines, plastic milk jugs and plastic soda bottles to be recycled.

Dufresne said the initial residential curbside recycling collection program began in March 1994 with a pilot project operated under an agreement with Mulberry Sanitation.

“Since that time the program has continued to evolve into the weekly voluntary program currently operated as a part of the residential sanitation and recycling collection agreement between the City of Van Buren Municipal Utilities and Waste Management of Arkansas,” he said.

Sanitation, or garbage, is collected from around 7,300 Van Buren residents on the city’s mandatory sanitation collection program. Currently, around 700 of those residents voluntarily participate in the curbside recycling collection program.

“According to reports, required by the agreement, during 2016, Waste Management delivered approximately 5,735 tons of garbage to the City of Fort Smith landfill and approximately 203 tons of recyclable materials to Smurfit Kappa – Fort Smith Recycling,” Dufresne said.

More information can be found at vbmu.org.

“To participate in the voluntary curbside recycling collection program, residents can call Waste Management at (479) 474-0195,” Dufresne said.

Residents in apartments or multi-family dwellings not on Van Buren’s residential sanitation program can take recyclable items to the Van Buren Recycle Drop-Off Center, located at Waste Management of Arkansas, 2504 Industrial Park Road.

The City of Van Buren also has a household hazardous waste and electronic waste collection facility at 311 N. 30th St., behind Van Buren Municipal Utilities.

Dufresne said local residents can drop off HHW and e-waste items, at no charge.

Included are aerosol cans, oil-based paints, florescent light bulbs, pesticides, unused motor oil and other automotive oils. HHW items must be in the original container.

The facility also accepts residential quantities of e-waste items such as audio and visual equipment, cell phones, computers and printers. Items such as microwave ovens, toasters, coffee makers, lamps, are not accepted.

The facility is normally open on Wednesdays from 8 a.m. until noon. For more information about HHW/e-waste drop-off visit vbmu.org/faq or call VBMU at (479) 474-5067.