By Mary Spicer
“The recycling committee is divided,” committee member Donna Cessna reported to her fellow Meadville Area Recreation Authority members during their recent monthly meeting. Jay Verno, the committee member on the other side of the divide, agreed.
The topic of discussion was an offer placed on the authority’s table by Josh Sherretts, director of Crawford County Historical Society’s Baldwin-Reynolds House Museum on Meadville’s Terrace Street.
In the spring of 2013, the museum expanded its offerings to the community to include free residential computer and electronics recycling. Working with Maven Technologies LLC, a recycling group headquartered in Rochester, N.Y., the museum collected and sustainably recycled more than 20,000 pounds of what Sherretts describes a “unwanted and unusable computers, radios, televisions, microwaves and more.”
In addition to keeping all sorts of toxic materials out of area landfills, not to mention rivers, the effort has earned the museum a payment in the neighborhood of $600, thanks to Maven’s donation to the organization of 3 cents per pound collected.
And what, one might reasonably ask, does technology recycling have to do with either a recreation complex or a museum?
In a message directed to both the rec authority board and the Meadville Area Recreation Complex staff, Sherretts explained.
“The Meadville area is full of wonderful opportunities for the people of our area,” he wrote. “The Baldwin-Reynolds House Museum ... is the cultural hub for our region in terms of arts and culture just as the MARC is the hub in our region for physical activities, wellness and as a place to bring our community together. We both share the latter of these goals — to be a place to bring the community together.”
With that in mind, Sherretts explained how the partnership the museum established with Maven quickly became so popular that, as he put it, “We realized at the end of the summer we can’t just let this drop.”
For Sherretts, the thing that makes this particular recycling program worth preserving is that it’s free. “Due to income in our area, offering this service free to the local population is another way to assist our resident populations,” he wrote. “Local recyclers often charge for these services, where this is an opportunity to allow for people of any income to ensure these items are recycled rather than plaguing their basements, attics or being dumped somewhere.”
Maven, he added, has earned certification in the two industry-leading recycling standards known as R2 and RIOS, which ensures responsible recycling by, among other things, upholding a zero-landfill policy. “All items including CRT glass is broken down in a manner that ensures they are processed and stabilized for recycling or reused rather than allowing hazardous waste to enter the environment,” Sherretts wrote.
The fact that it’s also a remarkably simple process came as a bonus. Basically, the process involved placing 4-by-4-by-4-foot corrugated cardboard boxes on the museum’s driveway or back porch. Built to fit perfectly on a standard-size pallet, the boxes are ready to be loaded and unloaded with a fork lift. Since Maven was willing to come to pick up between four and six boxes at a time, the museum had three pickups over the summer.
It’s all about access
Unfortunately, the entrance to the museum’s recycling center is from Lord Street, which, according to Sherretts, raises snow removal and access concerns during the winter months.
As a result, Sherretts asked MARC to consider making space available on its grounds for the boxes. In exchange for space, the museum would continue to advertise, assist MARC maintenance staff in keeping up the area and coordinate pickups with Maven. As to why the rec authority shouldn’t just contract with Maven on their own, the company prefers to work with only one organization in a particular geographic area, Sherretts explained, and the museum is already booked as its only Meadville account.
Sherretts told the Tribune during a recent interview that the museum encountered no problems with junk being deposited in the boxes.
“In three months, I had one vacuum cleaner, which was a non-acceptable item,” he said. “That’s it. No fast food garbage. No household trash.” He also reported no breakage during drop-offs.
While the museum’s early experience was positive, authority member Dave Boughton isn’t sure that the tidiness would last. Recalling his experience at a naval facility that introduced an electronics recycling program, “at the end of a year it was a dumping site,” he said.
Boughton and Cessna were two of several authority members to question whether the program would be consistent with the facility’s mission.
“I would rather have people think of the MARC as a place for wellness — not electronics recycling,” Boughton said.
“Collecting waste is the right thing to do, but this may not be the right place,” Cessna agreed. “It does not fit with our mission.”
Verno took a more positive approach, pointing out that the program would provide a valuable opportunity to partner with the volunteer-based museum.
Speaking as one of Vernon Township’s three representatives on the authority, “This also solves a township problem,” Verno said, explaining that people don’t like paying to recycle stuff, which gives township officials cause to fear that it will end up along township roads.
In the end, authority members were left to consider their options. The discussion will continue, although a specific time and place was not specified.
Sherretts is hoping the rec authority will come to a decision in the near future. “We’d like to keep the program going, so if they’re not interested, we’ll look for other community partners,” he said.