Happy Earth Week! As a rich variety of events are held on campus and around town, it might be hard to remember that Earth Day is a relatively new holiday, one first celebrated in 1970. Today, the City of Fayetteville promotes its “Recycle Something” initiative and runs both residential pick-up programs and recycling drop-off facilities around town, and the University of Arkansas offers easy-to-use 3-bin recycling units across campus (and on every floor of Mullins Library!). Until 1971, however, Fayetteville had no organized recycling program—and the merits of maintaining one (and whether the government should be involved in funding it) were debated even after its start. Question 10 on a 1973 survey circulated by University of Arkansas graduate students to gauge the feasibility of a recycling center for the broader Northwest Arkansas region asked respondents, “Do you consider the recycling movement to be[:] Tradition ___ Fad ____” (“UA Student Group Begins Recycling Center Survey,” Northwest Arkansas Times, 18 June 1973, p14).

Those graduate students were supervised by College of Business Administration Head Dr. Robert D. Hay and by Marion Orton—the latter of whom was a key figure in the recycling movement in Fayetteville, managing the Recycling Center, sitting on the City Board of Directors (where she chaired the Pollution Control Committee), and serving as mayor—all the while advocating for more environmentally-friendly policies and practices. To explain recycling—from how to sort your own recyclables, to why it mattered—Orton made the rounds giving talks to Fayetteville Garden Club, to the Blytheville Branch of the AAUW, to the Welcome Wagon Club of Fayetteville, to University of Arkansas students, and to a variety of others in between. And along the way, she (or some collaborators) crafted some homemade signs to explain the basics. Today, her original posters may be found in the Marion Orton Posters collection (MC 2160) in Special Collections.

Fayetteville Recycling Center poster (front and back). Marion Orton Posters (MC 2160), Box 1, Item 5. Special Collections, University of Arkansas Libraries, Fayetteville.

“Recycle: Save Energy” Poster, ca 1970-1975. Marion Orton Posters (MC 2160), Box 1, Item 7. Special Collections, University of Arkansas Libraries, Fayetteville.

Thanks to the efforts of Orton and other community organizers, Fayetteville’s first recycling center opened in October 1971 along West Avenue; it moved to daily service in September 1973. Honoring this legacy, in September 2013, the Marion Orton Recycling Center opened on North Street, the latest expansion in a now well-established program.


For more information about the history of conservation and environmental activism in Northwest Arkansas:

Numerous other papers of advocates for Arkansas’ environment and natural resources, including the Ozark Society (MC 1533, MC 477, MC 219, MC 2162), Neil Compton, Gus Albright, the Arkansas Audubon Society, EcoCenter, Inc., and the OMNI Center for Peace, Justice, and Ecology, can also be found in Special Collections. Recyclers also pop up throughout other collections–Bruce Robertson, another manager of the Fayetteville Recycling Center, when featured in Andrew Kilgore’s Fayetteville Townfolk Portfolio photography project in 1980, identified himself as “’”an ageless person – a recycler'” (MC 1401, Box 5, item 8). Special Collections welcomes additional donations of records documenting efforts to preserve the unique beauty and resources of the Natural State.

Earth Day event materials, 2006. OMNI Center for Peace, Justice, and Ecology Records Addendum (MC 1850a), Box 2, Folder 15. Special Collections, University of Arkansas Libraries, Fayetteville.

For more information about current campus and city recycling initiatives: