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Program finds uses for junk, keeps trash out of landfill
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Mark Loggins with Three Dimensional Life on Old Cornelia Highway is using discarded pipes he acquired through the EnviroShare X-Change program for erosion management on trails as well as for irrigation in the farm’s garden. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

Recycling isn’t always just glass bottles and aluminum cans.

Sometimes, it’s about making sure your trash wouldn’t be someone else’s treasure.

When an official managing the construction of a new cell at the Hall County landfill was looking for a place to discard some 4-inch plastic pipes that the landfill’s plastic liner came wrapped on, he turned to Rick Foote, the county’s natural resources coordinator.

Foote sent out a message to folks on the EnviroShare X-Change e-mail list. Now, instead of waste in the landfill, Three Dimensional Life, a local nonprofit organization geared toward rehabilitating boys, has turned the pipes into useful gravity-flow irrigation pipes for a garden and into cross pipes that keep erosion down on bicycle trails, said property manager Mark Loggins.

Through an e-mail-based exchange Foote started in Hall County called EnviroShare X-Change, industries, nonprofit organizations and educators have been trading needed items like the landfill’s unwanted pipes free of charge for years.

Foote started the EnviroShare X-Change program almost 15 years ago based on a statewide program in Vermont called WasteCap. The program is geared toward reducing waste, but the residual effect helps local industries, nonprofits and educators.

"We’re trying to keep stuff out of the landfill, first of all," Foote said. "No. 2, the goal is to try to help people who are doing what I call public works — whether they’re educating our children or helping a client who got burned out of their home last night..."

When he originally started the program in the 1990s, EnviroShare X-Change was for local businesses and industries to trade. The businesses on the list were sent a printed catalog periodically with listings of wanted and unwanted items.

But printing the catalog was costly, and, as soon as the list was sent out, it was out-of-date, Foote said.

Now, thanks to a grant from the Georgia Environmental Facilities Authority, the program is Web-based and has been expanded to allow nonprofit organizations like Three Dimensional Life and educators sign up at www.enviroshare.org to benefit from the exchanges.

Just about anything and everything can be traded on the exchange, and those on the list can post items that they are looking for or are looking to get rid of. Foote said he’s seen a lot of strange items offered on the list, from beds with built-in custom speakers to buildings.

"The oddest thing, I think... was an A-frame house that someone didn’t want," Foote said. "They wanted to donate an A-frame house on top of a mountain somewhere. I don’t know if it got matched or not, I put it out there, who knows? Maybe a Boy Scout Troop dismantled it and brought it back for a Scout lodge, I don’t know."

Today, the state of the economy may have spurred some industries and nonprofit organization to look to the exchange more often for needed items as Foote said he has noticed a "flurry of activity" on the e-mail lists recently. But in this case, the down economy may be good for the environment, because the exchanges on EnviroShare X-Change work toward Foote’s ultimate goal of reducing the waste that goes into the Hall County landfill.

"A waste isn’t a waste until someone puts it in the landfill," Foote said.

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