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August 25, 2017: Thinking Outside the Box

I’ve always enjoyed doing jobs that allow me to shinny up the learning curve. In fact, I routinely abandoned those jobs in which I wasn’t learning enough. This was usually after the warning signs made themselves apparent, some being inattentiveness, a lackadaisical attitude, and considerable sighing when in the presence of supervisors.

Today I learned a great deal about the ins and outs of collecting and sorting cardboard. I discovered that the how, when, where, and why related to plastic bottles and aluminum cans are a near no-brainer. But cardboard collection and distribution is a bit more complicated.

I talked to Carol Henry, who works at VCRS and mentioned that yesterday I’d pulled a dozen or so corn boxes out of the waste dumpster. She then asked me if these were waxed boxes. I hedged because I didn’t want to believe that my efforts had been for naught. But from now on I’ll refrain from putting waxed cardboard boxes in the recyclable cardboard dumpster.

I also later realized that I don’t need to transfer cardboard from the non-recyclable to the recyclable dumpster – the fair maintenance workers are doing this. I watched from the vantage point of the sorting area as they tossed the cardboard in their lime green trucks into the recyclable dumpster.

It was my first evening of sending volunteers out with the wagons. The bulk of the workers were Venture Organization volunteers. According to their brochure, “Venturing is a youth development program of the Boy Scouts of America for young men and women who are thirteen and have completed the eighth grade or age 14 through 20 years of age. . . . Venturing’s purpose is to provide positive experiences in order to help young people mature and prepare them to become responsible and caring adults. . . . Additionally, Venturing is based on a unique and dynamic relationship between youth, adult leaders, and community organizations.”

Hats off to the club members. The young women were hard working and very aware of the importance of the task at hand. Not a single one complained about the fact that it was cold and blustery out. And all came and left with smiles on their faces.

I gave each person a lime green reflective vest and orange rubber gloves and made sure that the groupings of two had a wagon, two pickers, two plastic bags, and one box cutter each. I had them turn in waivers and sign in, so that Michelle, the volunteer coordinator, knew who had and hadn’t shown up.

I sent the Venture crews out with specific instructions as to which trails to cover. The routes include the Red, Yellow, and Purple trails. Furthermore, I mentioned that in this run, the focus was on cardboard, which was why I was sending one group to Raven Hall, where the inside vendors were situated. I instructed everyone to pick up and flatten cardboard before putting it in their cart, and added that they should leave food grade cardboard, (i.e. pizza boxes with leavings in them) for the maintenance crew to pick up. And I finally suggested that they remove the plastic that adheres to the surface of some of the boxes.

As for collection – I did not say, and I should have – that cardboard is in abundance in the areas between the vending booths in the food areas. The same can be said about the area behind Raven Hall.

Cardboard is one of the largest exports by volume from the United States—most going to Asia. It also provides the largest revenue to VCRS of any recyclable

The Venture crews did not disappoint. All were back in an hour’s time. And all but one group had carts full of cardboard. The group that had less cardboard had bags filled to near overflowing with cans and bottles. As they told me, the barrels were full on the midway, so they emptied them. I made it a point to commend each and every one of them, and when I was told that they had all signed up for other shifts, expressed my gratitude.

At the evening’s end, I went to lower the dumpster lid. This, I was told, would keep the cardboard from blowing away. I began turning the crank on the side. I pushed on it and nothing happened. Oh oh. It was as I was examining the apparatus that I heard a voice that at the distance. “Turn the crank the other way.” I looked around, saw no one. “Like this,” a voice from behind me said. I spun around – there was Larry, the Recycling Supervisor. I exclaimed that he’d appeared on the scene at just the right point in time. He smiled, stepped in front of me, and turned the crank in the opposite and correct direction. Down came the dumpster lid.

Next: 233. 7/26/17: Out in the Real World

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