Recycling is tricky (yes, there are seven kinds of plastic!), but one six-year-old is on a mission to make things easier for you—and the planet.
Meet Owen Metzger. He’s barely tall enough to string up holiday lights, but has helped his Seattle community keep 224 pounds of them out of the landfill. And his efforts haven’t stopped there. With the help of his dad, Ryan, the duo has also diverted 700 pounds of styrofoam, 300 pounds of electronics, and dozens of jars of latex paint—just to name a few.
Even in a city like Seattle (which plans to go straw-less this year), there’s a laundry list of items, such as textiles, light bulbs, and plastic bags, that cannot be picked up by your usual curbside recycling service. This makes it tricky for most consumers to dispose responsibly. Wanting to figure out a way to make the process simpler, the father-son team created Owen’s List, a community collection service for hard-to-recycle goods.
“It all started with batteries,” Ryan tells marthastewart.com. “We looked up places that said they’d take [old] batteries, but then we’d find out they actually didn’t.” After finally landing on a local hardware store that collected used batteries, the Seattle dad realized it shouldn’t be this hard to recycle common household items. With Owen's List, neighbors don't have to stress about what to do with old styrofoam or light bulbs anymore; Ryan and Owen are happy to pick them up.
After launching the website just last December, Owen’s List now has over 2000 residents signed up to receive collection notifications. Members get updates on when Ryan and Owen will be around next with a pick-up, but can also join in as the two dive into what really happens to old styrofoam, or learn how landfills really work. “We try and do a pick-up every 2-3 weeks,” says Ryan, depending on what the item demands are. “But we’re a busy family of four, too. My wife works and we have another son who’s two. So it’s important to us to do what we can. But we still wish we could do more!”
While some of the collections will go to the appropriate disposal facilities, the team also partners up with local non-profit organizations in hopes that their donations help out other communities in need. Most recently, they held a small kitchenware drive to collect gently used cookware for the Refugee Women’s Alliance. Anyone can also suggest items for pick-up, as one woman recently did for her old empty CD cases (which the team passed along to a secondhand music store). "It feels good to be able to get rid of things in a positive way. It's like decluttering—for good!"
To learn more about Owen's List and find out how you can help, click here.