On an overcast Friday right before the City’s annual Junk Day, the municipal parking lot across from Gabby’s Café was filed with “smize” (smiling eyes) over masks as residents circled the lot to drop off usable items for Goodwill and home improvement items for the Reuse Center. Junk King collected scrap metal and electronics recycling, along with upholstered furniture, to be sent on later to charities such as Matthew 25 Ministries, New Life Furniture Bank, the Dragonfly Foundation, and Habitat for Humanity’s Restore.

According to volunteers, there were only about 20 minutes total during the day when there was not at least one car there to drop off between the hours of 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. During the rush after school pickup, cars wound three rows across as residents and volunteers helped unload items. 

Some residents took it upon themselves to circle the City and salvage items for donation and upcycling that had been put out for Junk Day; others brought multiple car- or vanloads of their own items. Volunteers were able to organize a few pickups of larger items residents posted on social media that they wanted to salvage but couldn’t deliver themselves.

“It was such a wonderful day,” says City Councilmember Sarah Stankorb Taylor. “So many people were excited about diverting waste—and after this tough year of being apart, seeing so much of Wyoming coming out to do their part was a joy.”

Goodwill hauled away 9,000 pounds of household items. Reuse Center claimed 8,000 pounds of lumber, old doors, tiles and other building supplies. Junk King reported 4,460 pounds of electronics for recycling, 4,300 pounds of scrap metal and 3,260 pounds of recovered furniture. That means a total of 29,020 pounds, or 14.51 tons salvaged by residents through the one-day drop-off.

Using a formula based on last year’s costs for the hourly collection rate for hauling that tonnage, Terry Huxel, Public Works Director notes that if that much waste had been left at the curb on Junk Day, it would have cost the City approximately $2,375. The city is still awaiting tonnage and fee from Junk Day 2020.

The diversion totals are also useful statistics for the city, which reports its waste diversion rates to the county each year. The higher our city diversion rate, the greater the rebate Wyoming receives from the county. Last year, Wyoming’s diversion rate—counting recycling, leaf mulching and composting at the community garden and schools—totaled 50.57 percent. The City’s rebate in 2019 totaled $25,963.16 and Wyoming earned the 2019 Best City Waste Diversion Rate award. The City has been tasked by the community-driven Master Plan to continue seeking methods to reduce solid waste volumes.

Wyoming resident, Patrick Walker organized Upcycle Day with Goodwill, Reuse Center, and Junk King. Stankorb Taylor helped coordinate with the city and organize promotion, but says thanks for the day’s success should go to Walker for his vision to help the community reduce so much waste and the residents and volunteers who helped make the effort possible. Walker, a member of the Environmental Stewardship Commission and master upcycler, notes that this year all the partners came at no charge to the City. “I was floored by the community support. We expected a turnout but I’d say that was double expectations,” says Walker. “And it was fun too. Very enjoyable, hanging out with neighbors junking in the parking lot.”

The weekend prior, the community’s Facebook Freebox group had hosted a Free-For-All to launch the week’s diversion efforts. Residents posted snapshots of items they wanted to clear from their house and something of an Amazing Race to claim items swept the City as neighbors grabbed clothes, toys, and furniture. A lot of people set out blanket-loads or tables as if they were hosting a yard sale, but everything was free. 

“Residents said this day was a huge success and can’t wait to have it again next year before Junk Day,” says Helen McCormick, a Freebox admin. Many parents later joked that the Free-For-All got their kids in the mood for junk picking the rest of the week. An informal poll of the group showed that 120 Freeboxers gave away between one and 15 items; 23 people gave away between 16 and 35 items; 12 gave away more than 35 items and one resident Freeboxed at least 100 items—from ink pens to a washing machine. Freebox continues as a day-to-day resource for the community to share and claim gently used items.

“One resident brought a really nice high-chair over to Upcycle Day, and Goodwill couldn’t take it. We were only taking upholstered furniture through Junk King, so I posted it on Freebox,” says Stankorb Taylor. “Within 20 minutes a Wyoming resident had claimed it and picked it up from the Upcycle lot. That right there shows the power of Freebox.”

Organizers say they are hearing from many residents about ways to build upon this first year of waste diversion events and all ideas are welcome. “Both events were reminders of what a tremendous difference our community can make when we all chip in to help,” notes Stankorb Taylor.