Bring the Kids: Educational Opportunities Abound at VCRS!

Contributed by Carol Montgomery

Valley Community for Recycling Solutions (VCRS) is a great place for kids and adults to learn and be inspired, whether your interest is science and technology or art, VCRS has much to offer. You may have been to the drive through to drop off your recyclables at VCRS, but have you ever been inside the building? Next time you come, before you head into the drop off area, go straight ahead to the gravel parking area just past the greeter’s booth. The entrance is easy to find. Visitors are always welcome whenever VCRS is open. You are welcome to ask for a tour, or for information to help you with your recycling. The classroom, to your left as you enter the building, serves as a display for local products made from re-purposed material. You can see purses, hats, yard art and much more, made from all kinds of used materials, including: aluminum cans, plastic film, even used juice packets. The classroom also contains a lending library with books and movies.

Pick up a Nature Trail Guide or Scavenger Hunt and enjoy the nature walk in back of the building. This short trail is decorated with imaginative recycled art. The Trail Guide helps you identify native vegetation and a culturally modified birch tree (find out more in the VCRS Library).

The Valley Arts Alliance meets at VCRS every Thursday to find inspiration for such projects as the Wearable Arts Show, Glenn Massey Theater’s Trees of the Valley Christmas display, and the Recycled Yard Art competition at the State Fair. Recently, a class was held on making decorative picture frames from aluminum cans. Like the Facebook page to stay informed of future events

VCRS is popular for school field trips. Visits can be tailored to whatever the class is learning in school. Students can look through the classroom window to the processing area below, discover how landfills operate, learn how the different types of materials are made, how they are recycled, and practice sorting them. VCRS even has a curriculum for teachers that meets State Standards in several subject areas.

Interested in learning how renewables work, or how to reduce energy costs in your home? VCRS was the first LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environment Design) certified building in the Valley, at the Gold level. A transparent section of drywall reveals the super thick Thermo-Kool insulation that reduces heating costs. Thermo-Kool is a local Valley manufacturing company that turns recycled newspaper and cardboard into insulation. Solar panels can be seen on the south side of the building. The wind generator is currently off line due to damage from a severe wind storm., but an anemometer is still in place. Software was installed to capture and publically share energy generation data., so you can evaluate these technologies for yourself. Interested in your own carbon footprint? The website even has a carbon footprint calculator.

Perhaps you have heard of promising new technology that can turn plastics back to oil. A small demonstration model of this technology is available in the classroom along with a poster showing what VCRS has learned from its research with this technology.

This is the final article in a series about VCRS. Previous articles told the remarkable history of recycling in the Valley, How recycling works,, and why diverting material from the landfill is so important

In view of what you may have recently heard about China’s Green Wall, and the subsequent worldwide recycling crisis. VCRS is proud to report that none of its products will end up in a landfill. In spite of this crisis, VCRS has committed U.S. manufacturers who will buy their products because of their quality. However, the prices for materials have dropped so low that in some cases they don’t even cover costs.

As a result, VCRS began the Sustain Campaign, asking for contributions to provide a safety net, to cover operations when the markets go down like this, and unexpected events, such as equipment failures happen. With its building, equipment and new baler, VCRS is set to handle 5 times what it now collects, so it can meet the demands of the Valley’s rapid growth for years to come and is a great investment. You can donate to this campaign at

Personally, I hope you do. I wrote this series of articles because I’ve been a volunteer for VCRS for the past 10 years, and I’ve never worked with an organization that is more productive. I think VCRS is an example of the Valley at its best – the product of self-reliance, hard work, and persistent dogged determination, by a small group of devoted staff and countless volunteers. It is truly remarkable what they have accomplished. I hope these articles have helped make people more aware of that fact. I think VCRS is a treasure worth saving. I hope you agree.