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Urban Farmist: How one Latina’s dream of recycling is turning a scary tale into a happy ending

By Aaron de Leon

On a cold, rainy night, a group of men gathered over a hole in the earth. They stood wide-eyed and uncertain of what was to take place. “Are you sure this is right?” one of them asked. “The decision’s been made,” another responded. As the rain fell upon their faces, they tossed in the broken, lifeless remains and buried it under a mound of dirt agreeing to never speak of it again.

Nearly twenty years later, the full moon casts an eerie glow upon the shallow grave. Suddenly the earth begins to quake as the broken, lifeless remains interred so long ago, rise from the earth, ready to take their revenge…

Obviously, I’ve employed a little Halloween-themed fantasy for our introduction. But there is a stroke of reality in this scene. Every week for decades, thousands of bars and restaurants discard mountains of used, non-biodegradable glass products to landfills. These broken, lifeless glass remains are covered by dirt, only to resurrect over time to haunt future generations.

However, former school teacher Maria Lott is determined to flip the script. She is the president of Recycle Revolution and together with her 8 employees, Maria is waging war on trash culture.

Maria Lott, founder of Recycle Revolution
Maria Lott, founder of Recycle Revolution

Maria’s son Eddie had the vision for Recycle Revolution after traveling the world and witnessing international trash culture up close and personal. Eddie decided it was time to make a difference at home and his passion was glass. Together, with Maria’s help, the revolution was launched in Dallas in 2008.

Grabbing just a fraction of glass trash for recycling would mean educating an entire industry. Beyond that, it would cost. “We get $12 a ton for glass,” Maria said, “It costs us $300 just to transport the container to the glass recycle facility.”

Maria quickly decided the cost was going to have to be shared. “We got laughed at in the early days. Eddie would talk to the bars and they would say, ‘You mean you want us to pay you to take our bottles to be recycled?” she said. Some may have laughed, but many got it.

Today, Recycle Revolution handles multiple recycle streams, creating new green jobs along the way. Their streams now include glass, paper, cardboard, plastics, styrofoam and used electronics. Their newest stream comes by way of compost bins.

Each paying client is supplied with clean bins based on their specific needs and placed on a schedule. Clean bins are swapped out as full bins are collected.

Bins cleaned and ready for delivery.
Bins cleaned and ready for delivery.

“We can serve a variety of clients,” Maria said, “We can go up, down, inside, outside, almost anywhere to accommodate a clients needs.”

Many groups offer recycling for free, but Maria is wary of any group who claims to recycle, yet owns a landfill. Transparency is what sets Recycle Revolution apart.

“We are very transparent. We are open to tours,” she said, “we want the public to come in and see that we do what we say.”

Recycle Revolution also offers a self-serve recycle station, used boxes, kitchen oil drop off and compost free to the public.

“There is no escaping it,” Maria said, “we have to care for Mother Earth. If we don’t, who else will?”

Aaron de Leon is “growing” awareness of the “Farmist” movement via his blog, The Urban Farmist, his weekly LatinaLista columns, and on Instagram at theurbanfarmist.

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