The Dirt on Getting Green

Photography By Melissa Petersen | January 01, 2014
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Get Green Recycleworks
The recycling team at Get Green Recycleworks helps restaurants, churches, schools and businesses keep glass, plastic, paper and compost out of the landfill

Madeleine Edwards calls it the “Manual Labor Tanning and Fitness Plan.” Each week, Madeleine and her team collect 10,000 pounds of cardboard, bottles, paper, plastics, and compost material from more than 70 businesses — including restaurants, churches, and schools — around Memphis.

The team includes Billy Simpson and Taylor Bernard, who alternate work weeks on the East Memphis route. Both are semi-retired and love working to do “something cool for the community.”

Madeleine started the business in 2009 to fill the recycling need created by Project Green Fork restaurants. But she hit a point three years ago where she just needed help. Billy and Madeleine have known each other for more than 20 years, and Taylor and Billy are running buddies. The job is messy, hot, and involves a lot of heavy lifting, but all three love what they do.

Get Green Recycleworks
The recycling team at Get Green Recycleworks helps restaurants, churches, schools and businesses keep glass, plastic, paper and compost out of the landfill

Most businesses in Memphis don’t have recycling services available. So either someone at the office has to take charge of collecting and dropping off recycling, or the business can hire Get Green Recycleworks and expect to see Madeleine, Billy, or Taylor one to three times a week. Actually, you might not see them at all. They start each day between 6 and 7 AM and finish up around 1 or 2 PM.

Businesses have to pay for the service, but all of Get Green Recycleworks’ clients have found that going green doesn’t cost them any more. The reduction in trash pickups offsets the cost of recycling services.

Compost accounts for about five percent of their collections, somewhere around two tons each month. The compost material ends up at Urban Farms — where Taylor oversees the breakdown and is experimenting with the black soldier fly (as food for chickens — or at the North Hollywood Community Garden.

Get Green Recycleworks also does a bit of specific outsourcing, too. They collect winecorks for ReCork, which upcycles them into new products. They also collect blue bottles and bottle caps for artists.

Madeleine and her guys, along with Project Green Fork and other community partners, were instrumental in revamping the recycling center at First Congo in Cooper-Young. New containers were purchased, the site was cleaned up, the containers were turned into art, and signage explains what can and cannot be recycled. Madeleine, Billy, and Taylor help monitor the haulers, clean up broken glass, and even assist people with their drop-offs while they’re there.

What does Madeleine wish people knew about recycling? “Stay away from plastic bags,” she says. “Don’t throw plastic grocery or other bags into the recycle containers. They clog up the sorting mechanism at the recycle plant, and the containers fill better with loose, not bagged recyclables.”

Madeleine, Billy, and Taylor are taking care of a need that most cities do automatically. You may not often see them at work, but their efforts keep tons (yes, literally) of material out of landfills each month.

The last word on recycling? “It’s easy,” says Madeleine. For homes, the sign explains how easy it is. (See photo below.) For businesses, you’ve got someone you can call to take care of it for you.

Get Green Recycleworks • Recycling for Businesses • 901-355-0646

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