We admit we were skeptical. After Kansas City voters repeatedly tossed out curbside recycling efforts like cigarette butts from car windows, we began to lose hope that our city would join 10,000 other progressive, Earth-friendly municipalities. We were cautiously optimistic a couple of years ago when Councilman Jim Rowland and Mayor Kay Barnes mended their rancorous relationship to announce a citywide recycling program -- but we weren't surprised when its launch continually was delayed. But those of us who live in Missouri-side neighborhoods where Recycle First has been up and running since March are now sold on it. Not only have we cut our trash nearly in half by tossing recyclables in the blue bins we got free at the hardware store; we've noticed something else: an increased sense of community. Now, on trash days, rather than seeing our block piled up with garbage bags, we see a street brightened by blue bins in front of nearly every house. It makes us feel good about ourselves and our neighbors. We spend a lot of time griping about City Hall, but we're truly grateful to John Stufflebean and his Department of Environmental Management for Recycle First.