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home : opinion : editorial July 21, 2017

5/17/2017 10:15:00 AM
The power of a soda can

On a June Friday night, a little more than three weeks from now, countless area residents will be having a real blast - literally - as they take in the annual Riverfest fireworks display.
Their expenses will be virtually nothing, outside of a few empty soda and beer cans.
There's no doubt that the fireworks display is one of the most widely appreciated events of the annual Riverfest celebration. The streets and parking lots around Windom Area High School and nearby neighborhoods will be packed with cars as folks gather for parties, picnics and fireworks viewing.
However, for about five years it has gradually gotten tougher to put on the type of fireworks display that area residents have grown to expect. Funding has been cut in half since 2010, thanks to two key factors:
• Declining aluminum prices.
• The arrival of single sort recycling.
Single sort recycling impact
Obviously, area residents can do little about aluminum prices, so in this space we will focus on the single sort recycling problem.
Buckwheat Johnson, a Windom firefighter and Riverfest volunteer, has coordinated the fireworks since its inception. He has seen donations drop from $10,000, six years ago, to about $4,000 last year.
Here is a quick look at donation totals since single sort recycling was introduced in May of 2011:
• 2011 - $10,000. • 2012 - $8,400.
• 2013 - $6,815. • 2014 - $7,185.
• 2015 - $3,300. • 2016 - $4,000.
Clearly single sort recycling has had a major influence on funding.
Rather than bagging up used soda and beer cans and hauling them to the can bin on 16th Street (just over a block east of Toro), people simply toss their cans into the green and gold single sort recycling tubs.
In some ways, we completely understand the temptation to toss the cans into recycling bins. We are all living increasingly busy and hectic lives. Given the choice between two options, we often choose the one that is faster and easier-giving us more time to spend on family, household chores, travel and other things.
So in a sense, the Riverfest fireworks display is falling victim to convenience.
What this really boils down to is, how important is a good fireworks display as a cornerstone of Riverfest and an evening of pure entertainment for entire families?
Those who don't care about fireworks may simply continue on the current path - tossing empty cans into the recycling bin while ignoring the Riverfest donation bin. However, if you view the fireworks as something worth saving and you haven't been donating empty cans, it is definitely worthwhile to make a change.
There is still time to make a cash donation to Riverfest, or impact this year's display by dropping off cans at the pop can bin.
Even if you do not enjoy fireworks, this is a chance to make a difference through a simple soda can donation. It's an event that draws travelers from a wide area, folks who will buy gas, food and other items in our community.
Moreover, a fireworks display is a rare event that entertains people of all ages from all social and economic backgrounds. It's not often one can make a difference in the lives of friends and neighbors, simply by tossing empty cans in a certain bin.
- Rahn Larson

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