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 blpalmer@localnet.com. 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.


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