Treasures in your Trash (Your ideas)

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While we throw our treasures away, many of the world's poor survive by scavenging through our trash as these souls do at the dump outside of Tegucigalpa.

Thanks for the great response to our series on Christians and recycling.  Here are some of the ideas and resources that you shared. Take a look and let us know what you think.

A Refrigerator Friendly Recycling Guide (suggested by Karen Ripley)

Karen suggested that we condense our “Treasures in the Trash” article to a single page “recycling guide” that can be posted on the refrigerator. We’ve posted it to our website so you can print it out:  Pacific Union Recycling Guide (pdf).

Dive! The Film (submitted by Sarah Terrell)

Here’s a film Steve and I watched recently — It’s about the enormous amount of food waste in the US. Definitely worth a conversation. I thought we were pretty good about not wasting food, but this made me realize that I still throw out way more than I should.

Dive! The Film – Living Off America’s Waste

The No Trash Family (submitted by Larry Palmer or Laurence with a “u” as his friends affectionately know him)

Larry came across an article in People Magazine (page 78 in the January 16, 2012 issue) about the Johnson family who lives a “zero-waste” lifestyle. The average American family throws away an average of 1051 lbs of trash annually. This family has reduced it to almost zero by reducing, reusing and recycling virtually everything they bring home.  You can find out more on their family blog, and be sure to read through their “Tips” page.

Re-use / Re-purpose (submitted by Karen Ripley)

Here is another way to look at things – repurpose: What else can I use this for?
There are many craft books available at the library with ideas of things to make out of stuff some people would throw away. There are even idea of how to make things out of chip bags.

I started crocheting last year with plarn(plastic yarn) made from store bags. You can turn your grocery bags into stronger reusable bags, hats or whatever.

We need to rekindle the imagination in a way to inspire resoucefulness, ingenuity and respect for God, ourselves and others.

Conserving water, fuel and power (submitted by Larry Palmer)

It’s not trash, but they are still resources entrusted to our care. Be conscious of how much water, gasoline, fuel for cooking and home heating and electric power you use. Energy / water conservation is related, but that’s a topic for another day.

Let’s keep the conversation going.

If you have any ideas that you would like to share, post them as a comment and I’ll be sure to include them in this blog post.


Treasures in your Trash (God Loves Recycling – Part II)


Tolupan Tribal Center in Pacayal, Honduras, a missions project funded in part by our church's recycling program.

We have been entrusted by God with a world to care for that gives Him great delight. Sitting in our trash are the resources to provide a poor village with safe drinking water, give a family access to adequate health care and provide a child with an education and a future. Both are compelling reasons for Christian families to take the idea of recycling seriously. We discussed this in our previous post, God Loves Recycling.  But I’d imagine that for most of you, you don’t need to be convinced of the importance of not carelessly dumping our stuff in the trash. The real question is this: how can a busy family get involved when there are already so many demands on their time?

My friend Larry Palmer, beloved elder at Pacific Union, is passionate about getting people involved in recycling. We talked about it over coffee the other day at the local Panera Bread before he dashed off to tackle the projects that were waiting for him. I was honored to get a half an hour of his undivided attention, and during that time I posed the question: “So where would a family start if they wanted to get involved in protecting the environment and raising money for the poor with their trash?”  What emerged in the next twenty minutes was a deluge of information.  I’m going to do my best to organize it into a simple form while trying to do justice to Larry’s wisdom and experience.

Think of your trash as fitting into one of four categories:

  • Trash to sell.
  • Trash that can be recycled.
  • Trash that must be disposed of properly.
  • Trash that can be safely put in the landfill.

Trash to Sell

John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement in England, once preached: “[Money] in the hands of [God’s] children, it is food for the hungry, drink for the thirsty [and clothes] for the naked …”  Wesley was talking about the money we would ordinarily spend on ourselves, but we’ve discovered as a church that much of that money is sitting in our trash! We had resources to feed, clothe and educate the poor that we were about to throw away. This past year our church completed a tribal center in Pacayal, Honduras in partnership with a tribe called the Tolupan. Roughly $12,000 or 15% of the money raised came from our recycling program.

So what is sitting in our trash that has resale value? Larry’s basic rule of thumb is anything metal or anything electric has value on the recycling market.  Here are some examples:

  • Scrap metal. All metal has resale value in recycling. Metals that are non-magnetic (aluminum, copper, brass) tend to have a greater value than magnetic metals (steel).
  • Old unused or broken jewelry. Old jewelry can either be sold as antiques on websites like eBay or recycled for the value of the precious metals.
  • Clocks and watches. Older watches that are non-quartz may have resale value as antiques.
  • Light bulbs. The tungsten filaments on an incandescent light bulb have value.  The glass from the bulb can be recycled. The ballasts from fluorescent fixtures (or the whole fixture if the fixture is too difficult to take apart).
  • Old televisions and computer monitors (remember when TVs weren’t flat?)  These take some work taking apart but the resale value of the parts (circuit board, wiring, copper cone, power cord, etc.) are certainly worth the effort. Computer monitors have gold-plated contacts that have some value. Flat screens can also we recycled but at a lower value.
  • Computers and laptops. These often have gold plating to protect contacts.
  • Appliances, anything with a motor. Of particular value is the copper windings in the motor.
  • Wire.  That includes coax cable, computer cables, power cords, telephone wire and the telephones themselves.
  • Air conditioners.
  • Old Irons.  Irons often have an aluminum base.
  • Used Batteries. All batteries, alkaline, nickel cadmium, car batteries have a resale value. Larry Palmer has a company that pays him for batteries by the pound.
  • Cell Phone chargers and power supplies.  The electronic devices have a metal coil that has value.
  • Cell Phones.  Cell phone can be refurbished and given to US soldiers to call home through a program called “Cell Phones for Soldiers.”
  • Other items include: toasters, vacuum cleaners, lamps, nails,screws, lawn mowers, weed whackers, rakes, etc.

If you are in the Westport, Massachusetts area and you would like to donate any of the items please contact Larry Palmer at If you are not in Southeastern Massachusetts, we encourage you to find local recycling centers that will purchase your recyclables we’ve mentioned and then as a family find a worthy cause to donate the money to.

Trash that can be recycled

In addition to using all our God-given resources to advance God’s kingdom, we also have a responsibility to care for the world that God created and so dearly loves. Some recyclables greatest value is not in their resale value, but in the fact that they can be reused and not tossed to take up space in our landfills. These items include: glass, paper, cardboard and plastic. You’ll have to check for the guidelines in your own community, but as a basic guide our check our local company’s recycling guidelines.

Trash that must be disposed of properly

There are certain items that are too hazardous to put into our landfills as they tend to leach into the soil and may pollute the groundwater. These include: waste oil, solvents, anti-freeze, outdated drugs and oil based paints. Check with your local town for guidelines for the safe disposal of these products.

Trash to be safely thrown in the landfill

For items that can not be resold, recycled, or composted and are non-leachable can safely be thrown away.  Try starting a competition with your family to see how little you can throw away this year.

Add to the recycling conversation

God has entrusted our society with unprecedented wealth and resources.  May God guide your family as you seek to honor Him by using your stuff to love the poor and care for His Creation. Do you have recycling ideas? Add to the conversation by posting a comment. We’d love to hear from you.

God Loves Recycling


The earth from space

God saw all that he had made and it was very good. (Genesis 1:31)

Larry Palmer, an elder in our church, really loves recycling. So much so that we have considered giving him the title “associate elder for the environment.”  If we were the sort of church that liked to hand out titles. Larry is a difficult man to pin down but a few weeks ago I managed to get him to sit still for 15 minutes and talk about his passion. Our short conversation became the material for this post.

Recycling.  It is not a topic we normally associate with the gospel and discipling children.  My hope is that by the end of this article, you will begin to see recycling, not as the obsession of leftover hippies, but an important part of following of Jesus.

During our conversation, I posed this question to Larry, “So why should Christian families care about recycling?” A number of ideas were thrown out, but in the end we settled on two:

  • Recycling is part of God’s command to humanity to care for and rule over His creation.
  • Recycling is wonderful way to raise money for the work of God’s kingdom.

Following Jesus and protecting the environment

Between sips of coffee, Larry’s voice begins to get animated. “It burns me up to see what fills our landfills. So much waste. So many things that could have been reused. Instead our town dump is filled with mounds of unwanted stuff, some of which slowly leaches into the ground and works its way into our water supply.” His passion is not rooted in a desire to worship nature, but a heart that reflects God’s love for His own creation.

The goodness of our world fairly leaps off the page when you read the account of creation in Genesis 1. In the story God speaks the  world into existence pausing only to admire his handiwork. He gazes at the dazzling  light and exclaims, “it is good.” The oceans, the continents, plants, animals, birds, fish, stars, the sun, the moon and human beings also earn similar praise.  My favorite part of the story is the end where God stops to admire all that he had created.

God saw all that he made, and it was very good. (Genesis 1:31)

The world, the environment, all that God has made takes His breath away. If He treasures it this much, shouldn’t we? After all we were created to rule over this world and take care of it.

Genesis 1:28 God blessed [Adam and Eve] and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living thing creatures that moves on the ground.”

As sinful people we have twisted the word ‘rule’ into ‘exploitation.’  Rulers in our world are expected to exploit those under them for their own gain, just as human beings have exploited the earth and its resources for their own short term profit. But a ruler in God’s eyes is one who serves the good of those under his authority, just as King Jesus laid down his life for us, his subjects.

When we consume products and mindlessly throw them away; When we are careless with the stuff that God has given us;  When we treat the world as an ‘it’ to be exploited rather than a jewel that God treasures; we abdicate our God-given role as rulers over God’s creation. We violate our own purpose while heaping insults on One who made and treasures it all.

What better way to give your children a Christ-like attitude towards God’s creation than to teach them the principles of using less, reusing what we can and recycling what we are finished with. We do it, not to worship creation, but to honor the Creator and live out His purpose for us in the world.

Recycling and God’s Resources

Larry continued our scattered caffeine fueled conversation. “My neighbor died a few weeks ago and her son flew in from Texas to clean out the house to put it on the market. As time began to run short, he began to throw away stuff wholesale. I asked to take a look at what he was throwing away and the ‘trash’ in the first bag alone was worth well over a hundred of dollars. We’re literally throwing away money and it’s crazy.”

As Larry talked, my thoughts turned to our recent trips to Honduras. In a world of extreme poverty sums as little as $50 can change a family’s life forever. $50 builds an outdoor adobe oven and starts a young mother in the baking business. $35 a year gives an orphan in Kenya two meals a day and a quality education. It was Jesus who said, “sell your possessions, give the money to the poor and come follow me.” What if we started obeying Jesus’ command by selling the stuff we were going to throw away anyway? In your homes are old appliances, mounds of used batteries, broken electronics, scrap metal and unwanted jewelry all with the potential of changing someone’s life forever.

Recycling – a way to love God and your neighbor

Christianity is more than getting to heaven.  It is way of life that touches every aspect of life including how we treat our world and use the stuff we buy. Practiced in the proper perspective, recycling is a beautiful way to teach your family a love for God our Creator, love for neighbor and an appreciation for the abundance He has given us. So how do you get started? That’s the topic for next week’s article. Stay tuned.