Recycling Responsibly: Sorting Out the Fourth of July

BROKEN BOW – With the onset of the Fourth of July come explosions of all shades: from the chandeliers of fireworks to the glassy shower of candy from a passing parade, each leaves its telltale mark behind, whether aluminum, paper, or plastic.

Custer County Recycling Manager Kelly Flynn sees this time of year as particularly pertinent to the county’s recycling mission; with an influx of material comes an increase in awareness, and with that comes more opportunities to save the county a few bottles, and earn it a few dollars.

“All right, a full trailer,” he says, “Off we go!”

It is the community, especially during the various holidays, Flynn says, that makes the recycling system hum the way it does.

“I just appreciate the public for keeping the trailers going, keeping the material coming in. That’s what makes our recycling center work.”

It may sound like a streamlined operation, and indeed, Flynn has it down to a science, but it is far from simple. Flynn oversees the sorting and transportation of materials for eighteen locations: twelve in Custer County, and six beyond.

“We’re trying to cover the needs of this community. We don’t have any big cities, but we have a lot of people, and each of those centers is being used, filled up.”

This should come as no surprise; Flynn’s recycling operation is responsible for handling aluminum, plastic, and paper for over 16,000 people, of whom nearly three-fourths are located in Custer County.

The trick for Flynn, as well as the average recycler, is in knowing exactly what can be recycled where and how, and what ought to be scrapped outright. For example, of the seven different types of plastic bottles, only two can currently be recycled by the county. Flynn elaborates.

“We’re only taking number one and number two plastic bottles,” he says.

Though veteran recyclers may think they have sorting down, Flynn urges caution when dealing with seasonal paper.

“Fireworks, for us, are not recyclable. They’ve been burnt, and there’s usually wood, metal, or some kind of wire involved; they’re just not made to be recycled.”

What else could responsible recyclers help sort to make Flynn’s five-day-a-week operation hum that much sweeter?

“Candy wrappers. Those are plastic, not paper, and we always get them in paper. Little things like that; people could really help by just throwing those things away.”