Day after Christmas marks biggest time for recycling

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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. So what did you do on the first day after Christmas?

Some people go back to work, others return gifts or clean up after all those family get-togethers.

But did you know that the day after Christmas also marks the busiest day of the year at recycling centers?

“Think of all those packages under the tree,” said Laurie Duncan, the city’s education outreach coordinator for environmental services, when asked why post-Christmas brings a rush in recycling. “They were all wrapped in boxes and bags and tissue paper and the outer-wrapping paper and the bows and all that stuff before you ever even get to what’s inside.”

So that’s why there was a crush of traffic at area recycling centers on Wednesday as the year-end disposal brought a beehive of activity and even the opportunity for parents to teach their kids a valuable life lesson.

Even though some of them, like six year-old Kelton Bailey, was a little too short to reach the slot to throw his cardboard in the recycle bin.

“Yeah. He’s growing into it,” said his father Bruce, who said he brought Kelton to the recycling center to teach him about the importance of protecting the environment.

Kelton, though, had his own favorite part about coming there.

“The glass,” he said as shards of glass broke into pieces in the recycle bin when thrown by visitors. “I like it because it makes a loud sound.”

Duncan knows all about life at the facilities as her job is to educate people on the value of recycling.

“I talk trash,” she said with a laugh. “I have the best job in the world.”

And while she appreciates the big post-Christmas turnout, she points out that it’s an anomoly considering that only about 35% of Americans recycle.

“That’s a little disappointing and a bit terrifying considering how long recycling has been a part of our national conversation,” she said.

Recycling started to pick up steam almost a half-century ago during the environmental movement of the 1970’s, but it’s importance is still something most of us don’t recognize.

“I know I’m guilty of thinking I’m just going to throw this away,” Duncan said. “But there is no such thing as ‘away’. Everything we throw away goes somewhere and that somewhere is to a landfill. And it’s just gonna sit there. But all of our material that’s collected at a recycling center is gonna go to what’s called a materials-recovery facility. And then they have end-users who take those materials and turn it into something new.”

Jonathan Beckett was among those first-time visitors to a recycling center when he arrived on Wednesday and said the reason he decided to finally start bringing things there came from a realization about himself.

“I just really needed to decide to stop being lazy,” he said. “That’s really it deep down. Just stop being lazy. It’s not hard to do at all.”

Beckett admitted he was a bit intimidated when he arrived at the recycling center not knowing where everything went but said it turned out to be very easy and self-explanatory.

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