Volunteers with Planet Protectors explain what is and is not a recyclable thin-film plastic. | Credit: Ralph A. Clevenger

My wonderful dad once said to me, in his wonderfully humorous, never-take-no-for-an-answer way, “I thought collecting people’s trash was a crazy idea, but I’ve never seen so many people excited about sorting their trash and taking action on it.

“Sasha, you may not be the ‘perfect’ person to do this, but if you want to do this, you have shown me that if it’s possible and you want to, you can do it!”

I nearly laughed out loud, and I realized he was right.

I am just the “troublemaker” to see this through.

If you’ve been to any of our recycling programs, you’ve seen my father, me, John Fenner (who works here at the dry cleaners), and the other wonderful volunteers and participants, all doing what we can for our city and our world.

But what you probably haven’t seen are the many meetings, discussions, and hours behind the scenes, trying to figure out how to make this program work.

And all the way along, when I’ve felt like giving up, it has been these very people showing up week after week, expressing gratitude, and coming together in a joyful community that has kept me going.

And right there alongside me has been Neil Ablitt.

Why am I sharing this, you ask?

Neil Ablitt keeps the goodwill flowing with his genial presence. | Ralph A. Clevenger

Because I have put a flag in the ground that, with the community’s help, 2023 is the year I’m going to make Planet Protectors much more impactful, economically self-sustaining, and independent of the parking lot at our dry-cleaning business.

From liability, to traffic issues, to currently paying for the plastic to be taken away for recycling, there are lots of reasons to make this shift — which I will elaborate on next time I write to you.

The important thing is that together, we’re going to 4x this thing!

Over the past few years, I’ve watched my dad work the plastic baler to batch up the plastic we’ve been collecting, greet our members as they stream in from the street, and keep track of so many things — always with a smile and an encouraging word for all.

I’ve realized what a blessing it would be for him to see the program he has nurtured go on to have a life of its own — to grow and become a movement that will thrive and become bigger than either of us.

So, in order to do that, we’re putting plans together to reach a few primary milestones this year, starting with:

•  Collecting about 400 percent more plastic as compared with 2022 (we plan to go from about 12,000 to at least 40,000 pounds in 2023). This will eliminate the current transport cost of $950 per plastic pickup

•  Securing the available NexTrex grant/sponsorship for a space to collect and store recycled plastic at this larger scale, instead of at Ablitt’s

•  Obtaining a larger baler that will allow us to operate at the new level

•  Expanding our hours of operation so people can drop more plastic more often

•  Building out educational and multimedia elements of website, so people can more easily participate, bring the right kinds of materials, and spread the word virally

•  Creating drop points around Santa Barbara

“We the people” of Santa Barbara pride ourselves on living environmentally conscious lives — and these milestones would make us the first NexTrex participant on the entire West Coast!

And before long, I believe we could recycle over 100,000 pounds of plastics per year, which I estimate to be nearly half of all that is produced here!

I know that would mean a lot to you and me, to our children and our community — and to my dear dad, Neil.

But we cannot achieve these goals as we stand today.

Our success in 2023 will depend on a strong start, and this requires raising some initial capital: the inaugural Planet Protectors “4X in ‘23” campaign.

The premise is simple:

If we can raise $25,000 early in the year, that will help us line up space, invest in the equipment we need (including the baler and forklift) to grow enough to remove 40,000 pounds of plastic from our environment in 2023.

That’s equivalent to around 2.8 million plastic wrappers from typical clothing packaging!

The great news is that every dollar we raise now will pay dividends for years to come — because once we reach these new levels of recycling, the costs per pound go down, not up!

There are so many challenges we face locally, nationally and globally — but there is one thing we can dramatically affect right here and now — executing Planet Protectors’ mission to turn this waste into something good!

I appreciate all you do in our shared cause and would love to see you at our upcoming events! Please visit our “donate” page here.


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