Supporting education one nickel at a time (with video)SLAYTON — With a quick twist that takes a split-second, recycling maintenance workers at the Murray County Recycling Center are raising money for the Murray County Central Early Childhood Family Education (ECFE) program, one nickel at a time.
SLAYTON —With a quick twist that takes a split-second, recycling maintenance workers at the Murray County Recycling Center are raising money for the Murray County Central Early Childhood Family Education (ECFE) program, one nickel at a time.
Kemps and Land O Lakes both offer a program that allows schools to turn in the caps from certain products to the company for a nickel apiece. When the workers at the recycling center in Slayton are sorting the gallon-sized juice and milk jugs from other recyclable material, they keep an eye out for the specially marked caps, remove them and toss them into a bucket. Last year, they managed to fill seven 5-gallon pails, raising a total of $473.15. This means they took the time to remove 9,463 caps.
This year, they have a 55-gallon drum approximately three-quarters full of the colorful plastic caps. Trying to figure out how many are inside is a tough task, but luckily not one the workers have to undertake.
“We send them over to Dodi Haugen at ECFE, and they sort them,” said Zach McFarland.
Having the recycling center workers grab the caps is not a new idea —in fact McFarland and Jeremy Winter said it has been happening off and on since before they started at the center. Bill Crowley said his wife has always collected the caps at home and brought them to the schools. Students are encouraged to do the same.
When workers at the recycling center first started gathering the caps —after all, it takes just a moment to unscrew them from the jugs during the sorting process —they would bring them up to Jim’s Market, which also has a collection receptacle.
“That’s how we got rid of the first few buckets,” Winter said. “But we were filling their container up, so (the store manager) suggested we contact Dodi.”
Haugen and her team clean and sort the caps into Kemps and Land O Lakes, then send them back to the companies. They get a check back from each one for the amount of caps they sent in, and that check is used to help fund EFCE.
The Murray County Recycling Center is one of the few centers that still uses single-stream recycling. This means people aren’t required to sort their recyclable items into different bins. The sorting takes place at the center.
“We used to have to remove the tops from all pop bottles,” Crowley said. “They’re made of a different kind of plastic, so they had to come off. But they don’t have to, now.”
The workers — three full-time and two part-time —sort the various plastics, glasses, cardboards and papers by type, and the piles are then sent out to places where the items are re-used. Newspaper gets made into insulation, some plastics end up at a carpet manufacturing plant. Everything gets a new life as a different kind of product. The Kemps and Land O Lakes jug caps, however, are recycled into early education.
“We used to grab them every now and then, but then somebody found out he was having a baby,” McFarland joked, gesturing at Winter.
“When I found out we were having a baby, I got a lot more serious about it,” Winter agreed. “That’s when I really started working at it.”
Sometimes the center has work release or job shadow help, and all are encouraged to look for the caps and toss them into the handy buckets kept at the sorting area. The buckets are later emptied into the 55-gallon drum. The workers also keep an eye out for the box top points on some cardboard products that can be turned in for playground equipment.
“As long as (the companies) keep offering the programs, we’ll keep doing this,” McFarland said.
“It doesn’t make sense not to,” Crowley added.
Because the workers are gathering the lids at the center is no reason to not collect the caps at home and send them to the school, the men said, but anyone who needs a place to deposit lids can also bring them to the recycling center at the industrial park next to the UPS hub.
Daily Globe Reporter Justine Wettschreck can be reached at 376-7322.