Submitted by Lopez Solid Waste Disposal District
Dogs love the Dump, aka Lopez Solid Waste Disposal District, and are the poster creatures for the annual “Dogs of the Dump” calendar that SWAP publishes and sells at Paper Scissors on the Rock. This year, the “Dogs of the Dump 2021” Calendar, which is due to hit the shelves in mid September, features one month with an award-winning group of human volunteers who self identify as the “Recycle Dogs”.
The “Recycle Dogs” are a volunteer group who, until the pandemic, met bi-monthly to assist in densifying large metal objects into smaller component parts to increase efficiency of transport and maximize profits for LSWDD. Many items that cannot be reused from the Take It or Leave It are also sorted for sales on the recycle market. The Recycle Dogs take apart old barbecue, stoves and ranges, motors of various capacities, exercise equipment, small appliances like lawn mowers, and other appliances. They also help sort valuable metals like copper and brass for shipping and sale to recycle markets.
This volunteer group saves LSWDD an untold amount of staff hours and increases site efficiency. It was begun by LSWDD volunteer and retired engineer Jim Lombard, and has continued under his leadership for the last four years. There are more than 20 group members who volunteer as each is available, with most work days numbering 5-12 volunteers in attendance.
In 2019, LSWDD sales to Skagit River Steel and Recycling for scrap aluminum, copper, brass, stainless steel and zinc totaled 11,000 pounds that the Dogs had separated out and/or prepared for shipment. That figure does not include the thousands of pounds of steel that they also separated as they dismantled items for the more valuable metals. In 2019, the total revenue for sales of these materials was just over $4,000, including around 70 propane tanks the Dogs processed for recycling.
The earliest email record for the group dates to mid-July of 2016, but hand written notes date back to late 2015. The impetus for the idea came from Page Read and Larry Eppenbach, hard-core “useful component” scroungers who detest throwing usable items into the landfill. Early participants also included Chris Coiley, Scott Pinegar and Jim Lombard, with direction from LSWDD staff members, David Zapalac and Gary Lawrence.
The original purpose of the group was to maximize the income received from recycled metals, and to minimize the cost of freight (by reducing volume and weight) to deliver these to our recycle partners on the mainland. Recycle Dogs started with a recycled work table and progressively added a couple of vices and some basic tools, and began “culling” recycled metal donations. Included was basic training on workplace safety, how to identify different metals, and the best-practice techniques to separate metals quickly, with little regard to whether they might ever be reassembled again in the future.
They often humorously call their volunteerism “half free gym membership, half anger management”, as they would spend three hours every other Wednesday morning banging and sledge hammering away, while others use specialized tools to deconstruct and disassemble objects for metal recycling. The camaraderie is contagious, and before the pandemic, more and more folks were joining the Recycle Dogs every month. They would begin their day with hot coffee compliments of SWAP aka the “Friends of the Dump”, and end the day tidying the site to pristine cleanliness after their three hours of demolition is complete.
Every year, Washington State Recycling Association gives several Recycler of the Year Awards. Lopez Solid Waste Disposal District won this award in 2015. This year, the dump volunteer group, the “Recycle Dogs” won this award and its well-earned recognition.
They are an indispensable part of the LSWDD volunteer force, and absolutely deserve any and all possible praise, award, and recognition. The Recycle Dogs are living proof of what an engaged and informed volunteer force can do with two mornings a month. To see their Washington State Recycling Association’s Recycler of the Year award announcement, please visit https://wsra.net/roywinners/.