RecycleFest gives scrap second life

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By Mary Hinds

Some people get excited for spring cleaning; Jill Gray gets excited about fall recycling. As the solid waste coordinator for the county, Gray is actually excited about recycling year-round, but the upcoming RecycleFest provides one more chance to recycle on a large scale before winter.
“I just want to provide the outlet for people, whether it’s a business or home to get rid of the stuff they no longer want. This event is for people who are tinkerers or people like me who sit on stuff for awhile until they say ‘ Nope-it’s gotta go!’” Gray said.
The LaRue County Recycling Center will hold RecycleFest this year from 8 a.m. to noon on Saturday, October 21 at the LaRue County Maintenance Garage located across from LaRue County High School.
Unlike the spring cleanup event, Recycle Fest is only for recyclable items, like electronics, appliances, TVs, tires, old machinery parts and anything else made of metal. The event will also accept large (non-household) batteries from cars, four wheelers or golf carts. Due to personal data, Gray said electronics are not repurposed but ground up and recycled.
“The electronics go to a very structured facility so people don’t have to worry about what’s on their computers, all of those get wiped,” Gray said. “Basically they grind them up and all the lead goes one place, all the mercury goes another, all the cadmium, the plastic and it’s all ground up and that’s the best way to do it—they have machines to sort it all.”
While the public can bring smaller recyclables to the LaRue County Recycling Center throughout the year, Gray said the advantages of having a day-long event include more space for storage, convenience and efficiency, as she has more staff to help unload large items.
“The maintenance garage is a bigger area, it would be too congested here,” Gray said. “Out there we have the equipment to load big stuff and traffic can go through easier—that’s why it’s such a good location for it. It gives people a centralized location to drop off their stuff, especially the people who work and can’t come by during the week. A weekend event gets the information out there because there’s still a lot of people that don’t know [the recycling center] is here.”
Pointing out repurposed items around the Recycling Center located on Water Street in Hodgenville—old street signs, pulverized glass and Italian lamps she has rewired—Gray said she has always been a repurposer.
“My parents grew up in the depression and so we saved everything,” she said. “We recycled in girls scouts years and years ago before it was the thing and my mom helped with that. So I get it honest. Recycling’s just in my blood. I can’t stand to see something thrown away that could be recycled or repurposed or put to use. I would much rather find another use for it.
Hired as a solid waste coordinator in 2003, Gray said she wanted to put LaRue County on the map for recycling. Between the Recycling Center’s efforts and annual events like this one, she said the county recycles somewhere around 500 tons a year.
“We do really well for the size of county we are;we out-do some of the bigger counties in our processing,” Gray said. “There are bigger that don’t even have a recycling center—they ship it all to a different one. I love to see the recycling numbers go up, and everything we make goes right back into the program to keep us going and to provide more solid waste activities for the county.”
In addition to the Recycling Center, Gray also opened Renaissance Repeats, a repurposing store for unique items in 2015. Located on the square in downtown Hodgenville, the store stocks old bottles and doors, knick knacks and antiques that would otherwise have been thrown away.
“I had some old antique light shades that had fallen in amongst all these bottles that should have broken but didn’t break—to me that said ‘Save me! I’ve survived all this crunching!’ How that didn’t get broken I don’t know but to me that was a sign saying for me to do something with this. My favorite thing is when I put something in the store and someone comes in and says ‘Oh! I’ve been wanting one of those.” or “Oh I’ve got a great idea for this!” and then they’ll send me a picture and it’s just so exciting to see something old become something new.”
Items not accepted at RecycleFest include household trash, furniture, glass, paint and hazardous materials, but Gray said she hopes to be able to process more types of items eventually. She went on to say that the metal, plastic, and other items the event takes in can be reused to make better items in the future.
“My goal is to keep things out of the landfill that can be reused, recycled, or repurposed,” she said. “I just like to recycle, I’m the queen of green. I like to help people in both directions—to give them a place to get rid of what they need to get rid of and save the planet so to speak.”
For more information about RecycleFest and what items that will be accepted, contact Jill Gray at 270-234-6619.