“We help everyone who comes sort all their recycling, answer questions, show them where things go, but mainly we just help them unload,” Mindy said.
Mia, who was quick to chime in, added, “I?put (items) in the bins.”
She brings her stool so she can reach the opening of designated containers. Sometimes, she said, her daddy lets her get into bins that are full of cardboard.
“I jump,” Mia said about stomping on the cardboard to make room for more.
Although too young to contribute much, Carmen is there, too.
“She doesn’t necessarily help,” Mindy said about her toddler, “other than getting snacks out of the car.”
One day after watching a volunteer pick up pieces of glass near the bin, Tim said Carmen spent more than an hour picking up glass pieces and putting them in a plastic container.
“(The glass pieces) aren’t sharp because they’re from bottles,” he added.
The Richmonds are committed to recycling.
“It’s a gateway for living more green,” said Mindy, who teaches math at Canton-Galva High School.
Hillsboro Recycling Center, located in the 100 block of North Birch Street under the small water tower and west of The Lumberyard, is open from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Thursdays and 9 a.m. to noon Saturdays.
In 2008, First Mennonite Church signed a contract with the city to manage Hillsboro Recycling Center. Member Paul Jantzen coordinates volunteers, which include individuals and civic and business groups.
First Mennonite pastor Randy and Ann Smith, who volunteer regularly, will be leaving Hillsboro later, so their spots will need to be filled, Jantzen said.
Those interested in volunteering can call Jantzen at 620-947-5433.
Among the open slots will be the fifth Thursdays and Saturdays of the month, Jantzen said, which Randy Smith has been filling.
The Richmonds, also members at First Mennonite, experience both rewards and challenges as volunteers at the recycling center.
“It’s a challenge having our children there (at the recycling center), but we want them to be involved in community service,” Mindy said.
It’s a way, too, for their children to get “a lot of people interaction,” Tim said.
“I was such a shy kid,” he said. “They’ll go up to people and ask if they need help. And Carmen just steals the spotlight.”
Educating the public
As teachers, the Richmonds also try to involve their students in recycling.
“I keep a big plastic bag in my room for the kids because Canton High School didn’t recycle anything before I came,” Mindy said.
“They know now that the bottles and pop cans from break (can be recycled). I can’t get them all to bring them to my room, but we’re getting there. They’re starting to bring them to me.”
Besides aluminum and tin cans, people can drop off newspapers, magazines, cardboard, glass bottles and office paper at the city’s recyling center, Tim said. Slick-paper inserts in newspapers can be tossed in either the newspaper or magazine bins.
Daughter Mia also has learned which items can be recycled at the center.
“We do No. 1s and No. 2s,” Mia said about the plastic containers that qualify.
The Richmonds said they’ve been surprised at the number of people who use the recycling center. Numbers can vary from week to week, depending on the weather.
“Whenever the weather’s nice, we have three to six cars there,” Tim said. “I’m impressed that most people are really organized with their recycling—they have their separate bins.
“So many people have their own individual bins. They’re so on top of it. They’re more organized than we are in our garage.”
“We love those people, by the way,” she said. “When they have their stuff separated, it’s wonderful.”
One woman had collected a bunch of bleach bottles on a rope.
“She had like a hundred bleach bottles on this rope that was probably hanging in her garage or something,” Tim said. “I asked her, ‘Where did you get all these bleach bottles?’ And she had this nice system—they were all there. She was the lady that has the egg business. She used the bleach to clean off her eggs after a mud storm.”
Tim said they’ve also received large quantities of empty pill bottles from the pharmacy.
“Those are all No. 2s—a giant bag,” he said.
At Hillsboro, participants can drop-off egg cartons and plastic shopping bags.
“Individual citizens have volunteered to provide a place for people to bring them,” Mindy said, adding that those citizens are then responsible to take care of them.
Asked about recycling hard plastics—household products labeled with Nos. 3-7, such as yogurt and vegetable oil containers and bottle tops—Tim said they can’t accept them.
“It’s McPherson County,” he said, “whatever recycling streams they’re using.”
McPherson Area Solid Waste Utility is responsible for picking up recyclables at Hillsboro and hauling them to its transfer station.
“This is a service that McPherson County is providing us,” Tim said. “We’re outside of McPherson County and they provide us with the containers.”
MASWU also has sites in Canton, Lindsborg, Inman, Marquette, Moundridge and Windom, according to its Web site.
Tim said people can also drop off some hazardous materials in Hillsboro. A list of those accepted—including batteries and paint and aerosol cans—can be found inside doors of the cabinets on site.
“The types of batteries that you want to get in there are your rechargeable batteries,” he said, explaining that lithium batteries need to be taken to the recycling center.
“Your alkaline batteries are fine to go into the garbage.”
Those who donate materials—such as milk jugs, plastic bottles and aluminum and tin cans—are asked to rinse them out.
Otherwise, odor and pests become a problem.
“One day I was helping someone,” Tim said, “and I didn’t realize they had milk cartons they hadn’t been cleaned out, and I dribbled milk—like nasty—on my clothes.
“And I had to go home and change my clothes because it smelled bad.”
Also, aluminum pop cans can draw bees, Mindy said. Last year, volunteers found a nest of bees in one of the receptacles.
“And that was fun,” Tim said, adding that although he doesn’t mind bees, others do.
With children often at the recycling center, Tim said drivers need to be cautious.
“With it as busy as it is, and with a lot of kids or our kids helping, it’s really important to watch how you’re driving through there,” he said. “People like to back up right next to the containers…. It’s best if you do the ‘all-the-way-through.’
Pat Bartel, who works with the Richmonds on third Saturdays, said she thinks recycling all materials is essential to make the transition to a low-carbon economy in our world.
“Recycling should be mandatory everywhere,” said Bartel of rural Hillsboro. “One way we can start in our meal times is to replace plastics and Styrofoam with biodegradable products.
“Biodegradable products cost more up front, but we’re not paying the true costs of plastics and other synthetic products because they degrade the natural world and, at some point, will probably have to be cleaned up.”
Like Bartel, the Richmonds believe they have a responsibility to recycle.
“We’re kind of fanatics about green issues,” Mindy said. “I think that in itself is rewarding for us to volunteer because in a small way it does make a difference.
“A lot of small ways added together, it makes a difference.”