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August 28, 2017: Re-Cycling: Outreach and Reaching Out

I continue to work in the recycling sorting area. There are other things that in my life need doing. However, I have made this job a priority because recycling and promoting recycling is such an important endeavor.

Yesterday, Michelle (the VCRS volunteer coordinator) rightly said to myself and a group of Colony Highschool students that our job involves educating people. Her statement gave me pause because up until this point in time I’d been thinking that our primary job was to gather together as much recyclable material as possible. Outreach – this was the job of those working at the VCRS booth.

Michelle’s sentiments were later reiterated by Catherine Inman, a long-time acquaintance. She had volunteered to be a picker, and as she said after doing a cart run, that along the way she’d stopped and talked with fair goers and vendors, explaining to them what she was doing and why.

The insights of Michelle and Catherine had a profound effect on my thinking. In the past (when out and about with the cart) I’d hurried right along, intent on filling my wagon quickly, so that I might have time to go out and get yet another load. Being a picker is synonymous to being a hero. It’s a great feeling, to walk back into the sorting area with a full load – some cheer and some oww and aww.

After Catherine took off again (with the intention of getting more goods and talking with more people), I resumed work at the sorting table. I was joined by six Colony High school students. We emptied bags onto the sorting table, twisted tops off plastic bottles and squashed cans. We then tossed bottles in one garbage can, and squashed aluminum cans into another. Remaining items go into large white plastic bags that are located to the side of the sorting table. Bottle lids and other debris go into a garbage receptacle. Full garbage cans are then emptied into two large bags on a frame. The large bags (when full) are stored in two green shipping containers. One contains plastic bottles and one contains aluminum cans.

I seldom talk when I work with the kids because they are not interested in the musings of an older adult. Rather, I listen in. The talk is primarily teenage chitter chatter. Yesterday, I learned that one individual had been grounded for three months for cussing like a sailor, and that another had, in one sitting consumed six energy drinks – in one sitting. But every so often one or another inevitably comments on the task at hand, noting for instance there is a lot of really gross garbage on the table.

Yesterday the talk was also about the sheer amount of waste at the fair, and that this was reflective of what was happening in the world in general. Hearing this, I apologized to the youngsters and said that I felt bad that we adults are leaving them a very dirty planet. I was instantly reassured that the problem would be rectified by the upcoming generation when one fellow remarked “Don’t worry. Our generation will clean it up.”

It was then that I had a major revelation, and this was that yes, recycling outreach is, and should continue to happen out on the trail. But at the same time, it is happening in the sorting area. For instance, the table is a gathering place in which awareness about recycling is brought to the attention of those doing this supposedly onerous task. And I’d put money on it – the younger volunteers are going to impress upon friends and classmates the importance of responsible waste disposal. No, they will undoubtedly say something when they see someone poised to toss a turkey wing, diaper, or cigarette butt in a recycling bin.

Yeah, I have a full plate these days – but I am momentarily pushing it to the side and will return to it later. My motto remains – if you see a fork in the road, pick it up!

Next: 237. 7/29/17: Oh No, Not the Midway!!

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