In the Garden:
Mid-Atlantic
February, 2008
Regional Report

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In winter the best place to head for a "green" road trip close to home is the recycling center.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

In frigid winters past, hibernating indoors was de rigueur. Now global climate change brings spring or autumn weather every few days. Which makes me (maybe you, too) want to putter outdoors even though gardens aren't ready for tending. What to do with that energy? How about spring cleaning early, with an eye toward recycling?

Toni Ann Flanaghan of Philadelphia and I took a "green" road trip one recent Saturday to Recycling Services, Inc. in Pottstown, Pennsylvania. RSI is not your typical Materials Recovery Facility (MRF, pronounced "murf") -- a specialized operation that receives, separates, and prepares recyclable materials for marketing to end-user manufacturers. That Saturday morning RSI felt like a community carnival with an environmental message and artsy edge.

Here your trash CAN be someone else's treasure or move on to become a sweater, an archery backstop, or auto parts. Gates open on a colorful hodgepodge of toys, skis, TVs, tools, miscellany, and handmade "objets d'art" from recycled materials. A bicycle sculpture nicknamed "Ron Peyote" converts solar energy into electricity. Books for sale fill the flowery-painted green trailer. Pencils and throw rugs recycled from blue jeans are other sale items.

Toni Ann had saved six months worth of stuff to recycle. "Two reasons I wanted to come," she says. I read about it in the Coop Shuttle (newsletter) and wanted to see it. I also try to recycle all the plastics I use. Nurseries don't take back many plastic pots. I hoped this center would take them and all other plastic generated by the family."

Toni Ann's pickup truck was packed with empty nursery pots, packing material from electronics, food containers, Styrofoam, old plastic toys, old library cards, and Smart parking cards. "All items except #1 and #2 bottles that Philadelphia takes for recycling," she says.

RSI president Jim Crater prefers that people practice Reduce and Reuse, first. Recycle as the last option. Education and taking action towards sustainability are part of his mission. His method is this community-based, self-contained recycling center. He also runs a Mobile Solar Electric Unit that provides electricity for concerts. "For sustainability, we're combining renewable resources with the elimination of existing pollution," Jim explains.

Everything is recycled somehow, even plastics difficult to reuse. Though he doesn't like plastics, he finds various and changeable markets for them -- fabric, tools, auto parts, flowerpots, trays.

Other (likely more standard) MRF facilities are in York and King of Prussia; Prince George and Montgomery counties in Maryland; Raritan Valley MRF, Recycling Systems, KTI Recycling MRF, GSP Recycling MRF, Ocean County MRF, and Colgate Paper Stock in New Jersey.


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