STEPS recycling helps environment

Published 8:44 am Tuesday, April 17, 2018

If you don’t believe one person’s trash is another person’s treasure, visit STEPS Incorporated’s Recycling Center at 225 Industrial Park Road. There’s treasure in hearts of gold.

“I love it,” one worker says. “I love doing something and being around my co-workers and my supervisors and I love the work, the job.”

Recycling centers are not unique, but what makes this one, located next to the nonprofit’s corporate office, so special is not so much that it saves the environment— which is does— but that it helps people with barriers overcome them. Here individuals with physical or mental disabilities work, earn money to pay their bills, have pride in their accomplishments, take their place in a productive society and make a difference in the world in which they live.

Email newsletter signup

On any given day, there will be boxes of discarded electronics, stacks of old printers and a collection of big screen TVs—that once cost thousands of dollars—docked at this waylay station between one useful life and another. Bales of corrugated cardboard are often stacked outside of three-sided metal buildings. There’s also a metal bin designated for aluminum cans, a pile of plastic laundry detergent containers that have yielded every consumable drop, and collections of empty soda bottles and milk jugs. They’re all waiting for the currents of the recycling stream to give them a new lease on a useful, consumer life.

The team of six STEPS’ Recycling Center workers keep it flowing.

“We are so very proud of them,” said STEPS President & CEO Sharon Harrup. “Our workers know that they are performing a service that is valued by our communities. They care deeply about their work and do an excellent job.”

Funding, mostly driven by cardboard recycling, supports the recycling center operation and the jobs for workers with disabilities. The Town of Farmville, Prince Edward County, Hampden Sydney College and a host of other contributors deliver a steady stream of recyclables that keep the business flowing. It’s a community partnership.

Down in the trenches of the operation, workers sift through the cardboard by hand and place it into the compactor. There are no complaints. Workers tell you it’s worth it by smile on their faces. Nancy Conner, STEPS’ Employment Services case manager, has seen the impact of having a job has on self-esteem. She has been watching STEPS workers with disabilities grow through the process for 20 years. “It really unfolds right in front of your eyes,” she said.

Conner added, “The money is very important to them. They’re like everybody else, we’ve all got to live. Disability or no disability, we’ve got to have money to live in this world. But possibly for the first time in their lives, they know what they are doing makes a real difference!”

For more information about STEPS, the Recycling Center or STEPS many other programs call (434) 315-5909.