Backtracking: In Our Times: Local glass recycling got its modern era start during 1971

FileA file photo from Aug. 13, 1979, shows Roy Roberts ready to smash some bottles at the Oneonta glass recycling center near the old D&H depot on what was once Prospect Street, now Market Street. Glass recycling took off in popularity during 1971, and this site opened in the early months of 1972.

Most of us don’t give much thought anymore to recycling our glass, plastic and paper, as we just do it day-to-day.

Locally, recycling began taking root in 1971.

Earth Day had its origin in 1970, and continued to keep the message of pollution and the environment in the forefront of thought.

As readers of The Oneonta Star learned on March 25, 1971, “Kick-off for a glass bottle drive is scheduled for late April or early May, according to Earl Fesler, manager of the Oneonta Coca-Cola Company.” At that time they had an operation on Browne Street.

“By community action or by working independently, the Coca-Cola Company is planning an operation to begin permanently recycling glass.

“‘The drive is not meant to be a token,’ Fesler said. ‘We are making plans to make this a permanent thing.’”

Ever since that first Earth Day, the message was growing stronger about pollution. As The Star reported on April 12, “‘The problem of recognizing pollution is no longer a problem,’ said Sheldon Sherman in his talk at the Oneonta Rotary Club meeting last week. ‘The problem is to do something about it.’

“Sheldon, who is assistant to the president at the Otsego Iron and Metal, said everyone is waiting for everyone else to do something about the problem of pollution.” The company was once found at the foot of Oneonta’s Rose Avenue.

“‘Recycling is reusing something so it doesn’t lie around in a heap,’ Sherman explained. ‘Anything that can be recycled can be reused to benefit man,’ he added.”

Otsego Iron & Metal and Coca-Cola were early local examples of promoting modern era recycling.

Within a few months, Coca-Cola had a plan set, as Star readers of July 11 found out, “Glass collectors and ecological organizations will be glad to know they now have a place to take their glass bottles for recycling.” People could drop by the Browne Street plant daily from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

That was just the beginning. That same month, a recently formed Environmental Association of Delaware and Otsego Counties Inc., or EADOC, was looking to form committees for glass recycling on a wider scale, to also be taken to Coca-Cola.

As The Star of July 30 reported, “Now with a place to take the bottles, collection points are needed, said Carney Rhinevault, chairman of the (EADOC).”

Four sites were set up in August. “Placed inside the stores to prevent vandalism,” The Star of Aug. 7 said, “the drums are now located at the Grand Union in the West End, Victory and Loblaw supermarkets on Chestnut Street, and in the Victory markets in the Oneonta Plaza.” Once the drums were filled, local trash collectors offered their service to pick up the glass and take it to Browne Street.

The drums filled quickly and often, and for a short time, the volunteers couldn’t keep up on a regular basis. EADOC put out a call for help, and got it from Oneonta city workers, The Star reported on Sept. 1.

 Apparently glass collection got too cumbersome for the Browne Street site, so as Star readers learned on Sept. 22, “a permanent glass collection depot has been set up in Neahwa Park for city residents. It is located across from Damaschke Field, near the city barns,” now gone from the site. In addition to Coca-Cola, a Binghamton company, P&D Recycling, periodically picked up the glass and took it to Thatcher Glass Co. in Elmira.

The Star reported on Oct. 11, how new drums had been set up at Oneonta High School as well as the SUNY Oneonta and Hartwick College campuses.

The interest in glass recycling went beyond city borders. The Star of Nov. 3 reported, “Carrying 1,790 pounds of glass, Boy Scouts from Troop 41 in Roxbury won the glass recycling contest sponsored by the (EADOC) this past weekend.” The glass was brought to Oneonta and then trucked to Elmira.

Abilities to recycle glass improved even more, as The Star of Dec. 9 told readers, “By virtue of an arrangement with the Delaware and Hudson Railroad the City of Oneonta will, beginning in January, take over its own glass recycling program, saving in the process about one half the amount of effort now expended in the program.”

It wasn’t long before a new drop off site opened next to the former railroad depot on what is today’s Market Street, next to the tracks.

This weekend: Our local business beat in December 1896. 

 Oneonta City Historian Mark Simonson’s column appears twice weekly. On Saturdays, his column focuses on the area before 1950. His Wednesday columns address local history 1950 and later. If you have feedback or ideas about the column, write to him at The Daily Star, or email him at His website is His columns can be found at

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