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Crawford residents embrace recycling

Crawford residents embrace recycling
Crawford residents embrace recycling
Jasper Engines employee Logan Steckler volunteers during the Clean Sweep Day on April 17.
By Stephanie Taylor Ferriell, Senior Staff Writer, [email protected]

Crawford County may be small but, when it comes to recycling, residents do it in a big way. Last year, 325 tons of material were kept out of a landfill because items were recycled locally at the centers located in English, Leavenworth and Marengo.

“That’s pretty impressive,” said Tina Bowman, director of the Crawford County Solid Waste Management District. “We expect it to be more for 2021.”

Bowman said COVID-19 resulted in fewer materials being recycled last year as centers were closed for a time.

The SWMD hosted its annual Clean Sweep Day on April 17 with about 40 volunteers gathering at the English Recycling Center to register and get supplies. They then fanned out across the county to clear roadsides of litter.

A total of 200 bags of trash were collected during this year’s Clean Sweep Day; more than 500 bags of roadside debris were collected during the month of April.

Bowman said that total includes 184 bags collected by Branchville Correctional Facility inmates during a five-day period. She said at least 75 volunteers participated in cleaning up the county in April.

Residents are welcome to pick up trash along county roads and highways throughout the year. The SWMD will loan grabbers and vests and provide gloves and bags. There is no charge to dispose of roadside trash.

Clean Sweep Day got its start with Mark Stein, who promoted it through a character he dubbed “Rudy the Rat.”

The year Bowman was hired — 1994 — Stein asked if the SWMD would help with the event, which had grown through the years. It’s gotten even bigger since then.

“It’s grown into a really big event,” said Bowman, noting a smaller Clean Sweep event takes place each October.

Education is a focus of the SWMD and it has been since the district was established in 1993.

“We try to do whatever we can with the kids,” said Bowman. “Reaching kids is one of our main priorities.”

Prior to COVID, SWMD employees visited each county school monthly to teach students about the importance of recycling.

“It not only helps the kids, but the kids take that home and teach their parents to recycle,” said Bowman.

In 1997, the SWMD started tracking how many residents recycled. That year there were 710 households and 19 businesses actively recycling.

“Now, we have over 60 businesses and 1,800 households,” said Bowman.

The business aspect has grown tremendously and includes nearly all the county’s restaurants, businesses and schools.

Marengo Warehouse is one of the biggest customers, with cardboard picked up there at least four times a week. Bowman said four businesses in the western part of the county have recently started recycling.

The SWMD recently purchased a new truck which is having the dump bed installed. It will be on the road by June. An employee drives routes to pick up recyclables, including cardboard, paper, plastic and tin, from the businesses.

“I’m really proud of the businesses and how they’ve stepped up,” said Bowman. “It’s just awesome they care. It does help them with trash costs also.”

A SWMD employee transports materials collected locally to centers where it is sold.

COVID-19 precautions have changed operations significantly. The centers require that all materials be separated and ready to process upon arrival so their employees don’t have to handle them more than necessary.

The changes mean residents are now asked to separate items differently as well. Currently, only plastics stamped 1 and 2 are accepted. Lids must be fastened on containers and not loose.

“Everything is done differently so it’s ready to package when it reaches the recycler,” said Bowman.

Most items generated in Crawford County go to Meade County, Ky. Books and magazines not passed on locally go to Spencer County, and tires are recycled at Owensboro, Ky.

Bowman said some residents might not be aware of the book swap at the Leavenworth location. A huge selection of books is available for the taking, and visitors are encouraged to leave titles they’ve finished for others to enjoy.

Last year, 5,322 books came through the recycling centers with many going to the book swap.

In addition to the typical items, Crawford County’s recycling centers also accept batteries, fluorescent light bulbs and magazines. While most items may be recycled free of charge, there is a charge for disposal of some items, such as electronics.

“We only charge what we get charged,” said Bowman.

In 2020, seven tons of electronics were recycled in Crawford County along with 28 tons of tires.

Residents may also dispose of their household trash at any of the local centers. The cost is $1.25 for a regular-size bag or $2 for a large bag.

The SWMD operates on an annual budget of just over $400,000 and has two full-time and 10 to 12 part-time employees. Those employees are the key to the district’s success, said Bowman.

“I couldn’t do it without the employees; I have great employees,” she said. “They take pride in keeping the sites clean and decorated. They care about recycling and the environment, and that’s what it takes.”

Bowman has seen big changes since she began 27 years ago, when the first director, Betty Stroud, was getting the solid waste district up and running.

There was just a single site — Marengo — back then, and it was open only on Fridays and Saturdays.

“We didn’t have a building; there were just bins out there to put recycling in,” said Bowman. “I would sit out there in a lawn chair all day and have only a few customers.”

The Leavenworth site opened next followed by English.

Another positive change has been the reduction in the number of illegal roadside dumps. Early on, this was a huge issue.

“We were cleaning up 30 to 40 a year. That was 27 years ago,” said Bowman. “This year, we’ve had just six so far.”

Looking forward, Bowman hopes to continue to see more and more residents choose recycling over tossing everything in the trash.

“It’s more economical,” she said. “If a family of five recycles, they only have one bag of trash a week.”

Expanding the scope of the district to include a fourth recycling center is one of Bowman’s hopes as well.

“I would love to see all the roads clean and maybe sometime down the line another site, toward Patoka,” she said. “In the future, it might be something we could do.”

Recycling in Crawford County

There are three locations where residents can recycle in the county:

English — Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Leavenworth — Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. The book swap is open during normal hours.

Marengo — Wednesdays and Fridays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

For more information, contact the Solid Waste Management District at 812-338-2728 or by email at [email protected]. Visit the website,