Yes, donations are accepted at the Lone Pine recycling center. In 2021, $28,000 was contributed. (Photo by Steve Pokin)

Answer Man: What’s the donation box for at the recycling center? Am I supposed to donate? — Tom O’Connell, of Springfield

That’s a tough question, Tom.

I think the word “donation” means the gift is optional.

According to Merriam-Webster a “donation” is “the making of a gift especially to a charity or public institution. b: a free contribution.”

It’s like asking if someone is supposed to donate to their church.

Or if you are supposed to get your Mom a Mother’s Day gift.

Or the one that stumps me: When you purchase your food at the cash register, should you make a donation to the employee at the cash register — as in a “tip”?

To be honest, I often go to the city’s Lone Pine Recycling Center and I’ve looked at that donation … what’s the right word for it? … “donation box,” or “donation funnel” or “donation early primitive art project” and wondered whether I should contribute.

Thus far, I have not.

I’m not alone, says Shera Zouck, who has worked there for four years.

To assuage my guilt, she adds, “When people get done doing their yard work they are tired and they want to get back home.”

She directs me to the sign on the front gate: the Honor System Fee Schedule.

(Photo by Steve Pokin)

The suggested donation for city residents to unload a bag of grass or leaves is 50 cents. For non-residents, it’s $1.

The same for a “bundle” of brush: 50 cents for residents and $1 for those beyond city limits.

But it’s an honor system and no one angrily waves a thorny-bush cutting at you if you’re not honorable.

How much money is donated there in a year?

In 2020 it was $30,000.

In 2021 it was $28,000.

That’s according to Erick Roberts, the city’s superintendent of solid waste.

Those funds stay within the city’s Solid Waste Division, which is an enterprise fund, meaning it raises enough revenue to pay its own way without tax monies.

What’s the biggest money-maker within the Solid Waste Division?

Of course, it’s the city landfill north of town.

This is Answer Man column No. 12.

Steve Pokin

Steve Pokin writes the Pokin Around and The Answer Man columns for the Springfield Daily Citizen. He also writes about criminal justice issues. He can be reached at His office line is 417-837-3661. More by Steve Pokin