- Associated Press - Wednesday, August 5, 2015

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) - Mary Hunter picked up two empty mini kegs and set them aside. They’re going to be used in a Sounds of South production, she said.

The bins full of old trophies are popular with employees at Stone Belt, which provides services for people with developmental disabilities.

“They don’t care what’s on them,” Hunter said, “they just want trophies.”

She’s got about 500 empty yogurt containers for the Mathers Museum of World Cultures, and she’s only a few hundred empty milk jugs shy of the 1,000 she’s saving for the Lotus World Music & Arts Festival.

“I’m about sick of milk jugs,” she said.

Hunter is the reuse coordinator and recycling center supervisor for the Monroe County Indiana Solid Waste Management District. She runs the Reuse Center located at the district’s central station at 3400 S. Walnut St., where between 2,000 and 3,000 pounds of items are given away each month.

“Anything a business will throw away, I’m interested in,” Hunter said.

That’s because many of the items people throw out can be used by teachers, church groups and community organizations for a variety of projects. The Reuse Center gives them a place to get those materials at no cost.

The Reuse Sidewalk is open from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday for drop off and pick up of reuse items. Anyone can take up to four items per day, but some of the best reuse items are kept in the Materials for the Arts Center. It’s designed to serve nonprofit groups. All the groups have to do is bring a proof of not-for-profit form for the center to keep on file and provide a thank you letter for the items they take. Then, any time between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. on Thursdays, or by appointment, they can come in and peruse the assortment of goods that have been donated. They can even make requests for certain items.

“We’ll save anything they ask us to save,” Hunter said.

David Weigand, who supervises the after-school program at Bloomington Montessori School, said he doesn’t ask Hunter to save anything specific, but just being able to go in and walk around is enough to get his creative juices flowing.

“I get ideas,” he said. “I can’t imagine not having that place to get stuff. Not having it would limit what I’m able to do tremendously. It’s a lifesaver.”

Some of his favorite items are small glass jars that can be used for painting or papier mache projects. Old CDs are also a favorite, because kids can make tops out of them with a little glitter, glue and a marble in the center.

Kathy Yonkman, preschool coordinator at Childs Elementary School, said she loves the clear plastic trays CookGroup Inc. donates, but nothing is unappreciated. Traditional items such as craft paper and file folders are always needed, but so are more unique items like a kids’ table she found recently.

“You never know what you’re going to find,” she said, “ever.”

Hunter never knows what people are going to try to give her. One time, an elderly woman came in with a jewelry box full of cat whiskers.

“That was pretty strange,” Hunter said.

More often, though, the unique items people bring in show how something that might seem like trash at first glance can be turned into something beautiful, like the branches hanging by her desk that were painted to look like snakes or a lampshade made from a car radiator. Finding new uses for old items is what the Reuse Center is all about.

“We take a lot of stuff other people won’t,” Hunter said. “If we can keep it out of the landfill, I don’t care.”

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Source: The (Bloomington) Herald-Times, https://bit.ly/1IWjuyT

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Information from: The Herald Times, https://www.heraldtimesonline.com


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