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Earth Sense: Recycling old material can pay off
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For some reason, late spring is always the time when I need to make another metal recycling run. Aluminum cans from someone’s Coke habit have accumulated. Food cans, made of steel, are recyclable also, although at a lesser value than aluminum.

When crushed with a special tool (stomping with my work boots), a steel can doesn’t occupy much space, and the weight adds up. Furthermore, there’s a space heater with its oil fill removed and the cord cut off to be recycled separately; a garage lift jack that lost all its hydraulic lifting power; the metal cases from a few old XP computers; and brake drums, sheet metal, wheel bearings and rusted bolts from someone’s old-car fix-up habit.  

When the washing machine quit after 10 years of service, it didn’t just get dumped somewhere. A few screwdrivers and a crowbar separated it neatly into steel, plastic and copper wire.

Copper wiring fetches a pretty good price right now. It joined a bucket of wires from said XP computers and discarded house wiring from updates to our home electrical system. Last year, a similar haul netted a check for $105 from the recycling firm in Hall County.  If your boss offered you a $100/year raise, wouldn’t you take it?

The bit of trouble involved in saving metal scraps and the drive to the recycling center are well rewarded by the cash payout.

This year, an entire vehicle went to the recyclers. After 21 years, the Chevy van showed signs of imminent total engine failure. With its crack in the windshield, slipping transmission and the cooling system held together by J-B-Weld glue, it wasn’t a prize anymore, but still able to limp to the salvage yard in Alto.

To make the transfer legal, I had to bring the vehicle title. After checking my ID to make sure I wasn’t junking my neighbor’s family van, the attendant put the vehicle on a scale mounted in the driveway. Junk vehicles are currently worth between 4 and 8 cents per pound, so I happily took more than $250 home.

Many of us have Dad’s old Pontiac, or a similar worn-out vehicle, sitting in the yard. Even if it needs towing, there will still be money left at the other end. The other benefit of recycling those old clunkers is a cleaner, healthier home landscape.

Rudi Kiefer, Ph.D., is a professor of physical science and director of sustainability at Brenau University.

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