- James Harris, an 18-year-old autistic man, has started his own business to help neighbors in Portland, OR recycle items that aren't accepted in curbside programs.
- The business is called James' Neighborhood Recycling Service and service costs $12 per month. Harris' mom helps drive him around to collect from 50 customers in their neighborhood.
- Harris sorts the items in his garage — batteries, plastic bags, electronics — and then takes them to recycling drop-off centers for safe disposal.
Harris is currently making about $600 per month and aims to one day reach 1,000 customers so he can earn enough to be self-sufficient. Earlier this year another young person also took on a local recycling project when Houston stopped accepting glass in curbside collections. In this case, a third-grader teamed up with his sister's boyfriend to drive around and collect the material for $10 per month.
Studies continue to show that many consumers don't fully grasp the rules of basic recycling — let alone what to do with items that aren't accepted in curbside programs — and many people would likely welcome a service that takes material off their hands. Similar services exist for food waste in many large cities, but people also need to have the awareness and interest in diverting the material in the first place. Being asked to do it by a friendly young face certainly doesn't hurt.
While Portland is ahead of the curve compared to many cities, it still has room to grow on diversion rates. The city is now at nearly 60% diversion, though this is down from past levels. On the state level, Oregon is just above its 50% diversion rate target but has seen an increase in the amount of waste being landfilled. Finding ways to tackle miscellaneous items like Harris is doing can only help turn these numbers around.