How owners of a downtown bar and restaurant are leading a new Middletown recycling effort

As co-owners of a downtown bar/restaurant, Mel Kutzera and Monica Nenni realize they empty hundreds of cans of beer, bottles of wine and cardboard boxes daily.

For the owners of West Central Wine, recycling that trash is either “a great opportunity or a missed opportunity,” Nenni said.

So on Friday, downtown Middletown’s monthly First Friday, they’re organizing Eco Fest, an event they hope raises awareness about the benefits of recycling and draws residents downtown. The event runs from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday inside the former Blast Furnace Pizza restaurant, 1126 Central Ave.

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Nenni said she and Kutzera volunteered to organize Eco Fest because they understand the importance of recycling. When talking to customers, business and city leaders about recycling, Nenni said she gets “really worked up” and emotional.

“Part of the human responsibility is to take care of the earth,” Nenni said. “It’s about preserving this place we will exist for generations to come.”

Middletown certainly could improve its recycling efforts. The city’s recycling percentage ranked sixth, and last, in Butler County, according to the Recycling Report Card from the Soil and Water District. Middletown had 1,630.03 recycled tonnage, or 6.26 percent of waste recycled, according to last year’s report card.

Madison Twp ranked No. 10 out of the 13 townships in the county. Madison had 54.07 recycled tonnage, or 2.89 percent.

Scott and Jeri Lewis, who own the building where Wine Central and Blast Furnace are located, agreed to allow Kutzera and Nenni to hold their event there. It was important to have Eco Fest inside and at street level because they didn’t want weather to impact the event, they said.

The former Blast Furnace location gives Eco Fest “great visibility” and provides plenty of parking, Kutzera said.

Numerous community agencies and businesses will have educational information available during the event. Downtown Middletown Inc., Keep Middletown Beautiful, Butler Tech, Butler County Solid Waste, Butler County Soil and Water Conservation District and Cohen Brothers are sending representatives to Eco Fest.

Throughout Friday night, at 5 p.m., 6 p.m., and 7 p.m., there will be different activities for kids. The hope, Nenni said, is for the kids to take what they learn about recycling and apply it to their everyday life. Some of the activities include packing a “no waste lunch,” making a recyclable bag out of a used T-shirt and starting a seed station.

There also will be recycling relay races during which children will be asked to identify what’s recyclable.

“Recycling has to be convenient and an easy part of your life,” Kutzera said.

“It starts at an educational level,” Nenni said.

Kutzera and Nenni recently appeared before City Council to talk about the event and Friday was declared Eco Day in Middletown.

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