Recycling Like Rockstars
Article 11 - June 21, 2019
Written by Matt Brinkmann
Removing trash from our rivers and watersheds is just part of the solution. The other big challenge is disposing of it in a way that diverts as much of it as possible from landfills. It’s an easy task with items like tires and large metal pieces, which can be presorted on the barge as soon as they’re collected. But the smaller the trash, the more labor-intensive it is to sort out the recyclable stuff and send it off to a second life of reuse. And that’s where our Recycle Like a Rockstar events come in.
Last week, with the incredible help of the employees of Anheuser-Busch, we held just such a recycling event in St. Louis. We were honored to help them fulfill their annual commitment to mark World Environment Day (June 5) with related service opportunities. The event was a major effort for all involved and definitely brought out the competitive nature in the participants. Under a hundred-foot-long tent on a parking lot of the Anheuser-Busch campus, 150 employees suited up and prepared for battle. The challenge: hand-sorting two tractor-trailer loads of trash recently collected by our Alternative Spring Break college students at McKellar Lake in Memphis. After welcoming remarks and a few words from LL&W’s unique motivational speaker (Coach!), the trash-talking volunteers dove in, enthusiastically supported by a full contingent of the LL&W crew and a blast of party music.
In the end, it was really no contest. Despite the monumental scale of the task, the warm temperatures, and the occasional general ickiness, the trash was no match for the energy of the volunteers. Within two hours, 169 volunteers hand-sorted through mountains of trash (18,540 pounds-worth) and 6,940 pounds of plastic was separated for baling and recycling by our partners at Republic Services (e.g. diverted from the landfills!).
One of our Budweiser friends brought up a good point; while the poundage of the material recycled was less the 50%, the VOLUME of the amount recycled was more like 60% as we had three dumpsters of just recyclables and two of landfill. The plastic is so light and the landfill debris tends to be heavier by nature. Put THAT on your scale and weigh it!!
The Recycle Like a Rockstar experience not only inspires teamwork and a sense of accomplishment, but it’s an unforgettable education about exactly what is out there polluting our waterways - plastic bottles being by far the most common item. It’s also a great hands-on way to contribute to our work for those who may not have the desire, the ability or the time to join us out on the river cleanups.
Thanks again to Anheuser-Busch for hand sorting and properly recycling two semi-truck loads of garbage that was removed from the Mississippi River in March by our Alternative Spring Break students; we couldn't have done it without you this past 20 years! And thank you to Republic Services for providing dumpsters and recycling/disposal services!