I had the opportunity to sit down with Allen Kennedy for an interview and survey of his over-17-year-long career at our subsidiary Recycle Ann Arbor. When I first began working at Ecology Center and Recycle Ann Arbor this past September, Allen was retiring from his position as Curbside Manager that month. I didn't know Allen well, I hadn't met Allen, but his reputation proceeded him. I was told by co-workers , "Allen isn't here, he just retired, but don't worry he'll be back next month as a consultant." This was communicated with an obvious sense of relief by the co-workers informing me of Allen's impending return. It was obvious Allen was an important part of Recycle Ann Arbor, and of the curbside recycling program provided by the City of Ann Arbor. One that I had taken for granted as an Ann Arbor homeowner. I love our recycling program, I appreciate our recycling program, but prior to working at Recycle Ann Arbor, I didn't give it too much thought. Especially in regards, to the people that make it happen.
Allen began working with Recycle Ann Arbor back in March of 1999. Over the years, he filled many positions with the organization from working at the Drop-Off Station, driving a Curbside Recycling truck, supervising Curbside Recycling, and inevitably managing the Curbside Recycling Program. Basically, if you had recyclables collected curbside in Ann Arbor from April 1999 until now, Allen likely had a hand in it happening.
And, it was clear from our discussion that while recycling holds a tried and true importance in the pursuit of a green and sustainable lifestyle, recycling can be hard work. Allen recollects, as a curbside collection driver, having to manually lift and toss sorted recyclables into the trucks, and of being painfully aware of things like the warmth of clothes and shoes due to Michigan's harsh winters. While myself and many others are guilty of sometimes letting small inconveniences get in the way of recycling everything that can be, there are many folks like Allen that day in and day out put forth the most effort (sometimes very inconvenient efforts) to make sure that recycling happens.
Allen spoke of the importance and impact of recycling education, to quote him, "Educating elementary school kids is huge in my mind", and went on to say that he'd like to see recycling education in elementary schools starting at the earliest age possible. There is no age too young to begin understanding recycling and its importance for a sustainable future. According to Allen, focusing on offering effective recycling services at Ann Arbor area apartments is one of the biggest opportunities to increase the percentage of waste diverted from the landfill. "We have way too many landfills in the state of Michigan. If we can at least decrease our waste stream, at least we are doing our part. I get a good sense of feeling out that."
During our hour-long discussion we talked about a lot, from the early days of recycling in Ann Arbor to the future of recycling and the recycling opportunities in our area, from the challenges of recycling both before single-stream recycling and after to what recycling and working at Recycle Ann Arbor has meant to him and his family. The most memorable statement that Allen made was simple, "Recycling is very important to me, recycling is very important to my household, recycling is very important to the students that come here to the University, and it's important to the rest of the Ann Arbor community."
And while Allen gets a 'good sense of feeling' about doing our part to decrease the waste stream, I get a good sense of feeling about Allen and the other folks that work tirelessly in our community to make sure recycling happens.
– Erica Bertram, Communications & Marketing Director
Published on May 26, 2016