Bottles of history on the wallsPublished 7:00pm Saturday, July 28, 2012
Old bottles still find use as recycled collection
Jeff Weaver will hold on to some of the very things people come to him to get rid of. That is, he will if they’ll fit the collection.
Weaver, manager at the Mower County Recycling and Hazardous Waste site in Austin, has more than a hundred pieces in a collection he’s been adding to for six years. It’s a hodgepodge of interesting cans, canisters and other containers from all types of Oil cans, aerosols and varnishes make up some of the ranks. Some items are old, while others just look cool, he said.
The idea to start the collection from Weaver’s predecessor, who pulled together interesting glass bottles she thought may turn out to be valuable, he said.
“The lady that had done this before me had put them in a barrel,” he said.
Once she had left, he opened it up and sorted through it. Many of the bottles Weaver discarded, as traces of fuels and other materials had left them foul smelling and spotted with residue. But the idea stuck with him, and soon he had put up a shelf to display a collection of his own.
Weaver said he gets hold of older containers when people clean out storage areas that had gone decades untouched. Some of the materials have been “sitting around Grandpa’s garage for 30 years,” he said.
The collection includes some pretty old containers, though determining when exactly they were manufactured is tough, he said. The majority don’t have dates printed on them, and the only way to tell if they surpass a certain age is to check for a ZIP code. If there isn’t one, the container must be from before 1963, the date when ZIP codes were established.
Several of the labels are written entirely in a foreign language. Some carry elaborate emblems and logos, while others embody simplicity. When people stop in to drop off materials, they often notice the shelves and reminisce to the last time they saw such a container, and where that was.
Keeping his collection going is a side project for Weaver among the wide variety of tasks that make up managing the facility. He took over running it back in 2006. Before that point, he had a team help him out with getting the hazardous waste supplies ready to ship out.
“I would do all the managerial,” he said. “They would do the taking it in, sorting it out, packaging it up.”
Today, he takes care of all that himself. Between those tasks, helping Austin residents with recycling and disposal questions and finding buyers for the recyclable material, Weaver keeps pretty busy.
“It’s just constant,” he said. “I do a lot of different things.”
And a mandatory 10-year solid waste plan, which is Weaver’s responsibility and on its own could require 150 to 200 hours of work, is no small addendum to the usual work.
“That takes all of my extra time right now,” he said.
He also runs the product exchange program, which salvages usable leftover materials from discarded containers and offers them at no charge to the public. It’s a way to ensure the facility doesn’t have to pay an extra $10,000 a year getting rid of them. Weaver said more people come in looking to pick up these supplies than do to drop off their own hazardous materials.