Recycling facility inspires unexpected field trip idea

The Tennessean published a great article about the Metro Nashville / QRS Recycling education facility at our Nashville facility.


I'm often asked to suggest good, interesting, cheap or free places to take a group or a class on a field trip, or even suggest somewhere new and different to have a birthday party.

There are lots of options, of course, but I never would have thought of a Metro recycling facility where they sort our recyclables and send them out to various other facilities to be reconstituted into all sorts of usable things.

That is, until I talked to Julie Berbiglia, who heads the Recycling Education Station as part of her job as an education specialist for Metro Beautification.

"We've had senior groups and Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts come out, as well as school groups, home school groups and day-care groups,'' said Berbiglia, whose education room is in the QRS Recycling Materials Recovery Facility, where all of the contents of our Curbies go for the first step of sorting. "It's all a part of recycling education to let people know what happens to it once we pick it up and what becomes of it. We want people to know what kinds of products these things can be turned into,'' said Julie, whose enthusiasm for creative recycling is infectious.

What you can see

There is a large window in the education room where you can see monster-sized machines loaded with paper, plastic, cardboard, aluminum and steel being separated into two categories paper and cardboard in one place and everything else in another. The paper goes to Bowater where they make recycled newsprint, and the mixture of plastic, steel and aluminum go to Indiana for additional sorting for other uses.

Although the sorting process through the education room window is not as dramatic as you might hope, a visit in Julie's education room is a treat for all ages.

The education program, which includes a local "Dirty Jobs'' video, shows and tells a lot about recycling and urges us all to "put waste in its place.'' You will learn interesting factoids like that our dollar bills are made from recycled waste from cotton (75 percent) and flax (25 percent).

What's in the room

And then there are a number of hands-on activities like magnets that will pick up steel but have no effect on aluminum showing one aspect of the separation process. But the best part to me is the room itself, which is outfitted with an array of unexpected items made through recycling.

The rubbery floor of the room is made from old tires, the wallpaper is made from Japanese phone books. There are stepping stones made from rubber tires and carpet made from recycled plastic bottles.

The chairs in the room are 25 percent recycled plastic and steel. You can see Levolor aluminum blinds made from aluminum cans, push pins made from recycled plastic, clipboards made from recycled plastic, a lunch cooler made from recycled vinyl billboards, a silvery purse made from pull tabs from drink cans (800 of them) and a belt made from bottle tops.

Oh, and don't miss the clock made using a recycled vinyl record.

Recycling games offered

Julie says the recycled items in her fun room fall into two categories crafts like the purse, or belt or some of the jewelry made from old phone cords, and the second category of "remanufactured'' items that are truly recycled by melting or shredding old things to make new items like flooring, carpet or stepping stones.

Everybody is impressed with the doormat made from what they call "post industrial waste'' in this case from flip flops leftovers. You can see a coat rack made from recycled rebar, a bench made from recycled milk jugs and a soaker hose made from tires.

Groups that include children get to play a sort of scavenger hunt BINGO game in which they are asked to find the various recycled items in the room. Julie makes it clear that recycling makes sense not just as the environmentally responsible thing to do, but also as something fiscally fit for the city. "It's the most efficient use of our taxpayer dollars,'' she said, explaining that "recycling is cheaper for Metro when you compare the cost of $29 a ton for garbage to go to the dump.''

So it means that if you are putting your recyclables in your Curby or in a Salvation Army truck, or making a belt or purse out of it, you are saving the city money, as well as helping save our Mother Earth.

That's not just cheap, it's smart.


Click here for the original article

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