March 8, 2012

Earth Day 1970 Leads to Slippery Rock, PA, Recycling Center





2012. Recycling is mandated in many communities, with few people challenging the importance of this lifestyle.

It hasn’t always been this way.

1970. Recycling is one of the lifestyles connected with ‘on the fringe’ lifestyles. The first Earth Day begins to look at its importance. Some communities respond to this event’s call for action. Slippery Rock,Pennsylvania, was one of these communities.



     In April, 1970, shortly after my husband Monte and I moved from Buffalo, New York, to Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania, we participated in the first Earth Day movement. The event called participants to environmental action.

     Out of that celebration emerged a few people who thought that Slippery Rock should have a recycling center. The main movers of the project were three women whose husbands were connected with Slippery Rock State College (now Slippery Rock University): Wanda Badgett (education department professor); Karen Lamson, (librarian), and Sue Hotchkiss, (parks and recreation department professor).

     Enjoining Dick Manning, a parks and recreation student who was the resident manager of  Sippery Rock CommunityPark, to help locate a site for the recycling center, the group found a small barn in the park, which was once a farm. It was full of junk and had a dirt floor.

     I’m not sure how our family became involved in the recycling operation, but we soon signed on. Monte thinks he heard about it through Wanda, who was, like us, a member the Slippery Rock United Methodist Church. 

      Soon Monte was doing much of the nuts and bolts work at the center. He helped to clean out the barn and concrete the floor.

     The recycling center needed large containers to sort the recyclables in. Someone with connections to Armco Steel Company in Butlerarranged for them to donate barrels. Initially, Monte thinks they brought the barrels to Slippery Rock. Later on Monte drove his bright turquoise (ugh! the color!) van to the Armco Steel Company to pick up the barrels.

     I used to get barrels that acid came in. They were great because the steel 55-gallon drums had a vinyl liner that could be pulled out and used as a second barrel when the top was cut off, Monte said.  

      We were different than other recycling operations in the area—we let people bring in bags of materials at any time. The building was open all the time. That meant that things were not sorted well and we had to work to sort. I think it was good because it made recycling easier for people, Monte said.

     Initially, people brought glass, metal cans, aluminum, and newspapers to the site. They were required to remove the labels from the cans, and flatten them. To pack the glass more compactly, volunteers broke it. There was an element of fun hearing the glass splinter in the barrels.

     Although we were not organized and bags were just piled in the building for us to sort, we felt good that a lot of people were at least beginning to think about recycling, Monte said.

     Time went along, and the recycling center became more organized. Volunteers sorted the recyclables. It was hard to get workers for recycling in those years in the seventies, Monte said.

     The recycling center was fortunate that the National Guard unit in Grove Citywas seeking projects for their unit to do on some weekends. They brought trucks, loaded up our metal, and transported it to Neville Island. Monte recalls that the Interstate 79 Neville Island Bridge wasn’t completed yet, and we had to travel over some back roads, and cross the Ohio River at Sewickley, then proceed to Coraopolis and Neville Island. The National Guard unit also trucked glass to Parker or to OwensIllinois in Clarion.

     Eventually Sue Hotchkiss contacted the U-Haul company’s corporate offices in Arizona and arranged for them to donate a truck for our use. We had to buy the gas and pay four dollar insurance fee to use a truck we picked up from a dealer in Mercer.

    We didn’t get a lot of money for recyclables in those days, but we broke even, and we were establishing a recycling mindset in the very early years of the environmental movement. 

Our children at the Recycling Center

     The following newspaper article provides more information about the recycling center:

SLIPPERY ROCK—At a recent meeting of Slippery Rock Recycling Center volunteers, the group unanimously decided to donate $300 to the Slippery Rock Rescue Squad. The money was made available by the combined efforts of conservation-minded area residents who deposit their tin, glass, aluminum and newspapers at the center and a small number of dedicated volunteers who aid in keeping the center orderly and arrange to have the material delivered to collection points.

In the past year, 15,000 pounds of tin and 30,000 pounds of glass have passed through the center. Profits from these recyclable materials revert to the Slippery Rock Community through the Recycling Center.

Other revenue from the sale of the recyclable material has been used in a continuing effort to assist in the maintenance of the Slippery Rock Community Park, where the center is located. In the past few years, nearly $1,000 has been put into the park in the form of road grading and maintenance of the North Main Street entrance, as well as improvements and repairs at the building that houses the center.

Seed Distribution

Another service provided by Recycling Center volunteers was the second annual seed distribution program sponsored by Governor Milton J. Shapp. Through the program gardening is encouraged by the availability of low cost seeds. Approximately 10,000 packs of seeds were distributed this year.

Center Rules

Recycling Center volunteers urge area residents to save flattened tin cans, beverage cans, and glass. These items should be rinsed clean. Tied or bagged newspaper is also collected. These materials can be deposited at the center, which is always open, in the Slippery Rock Community Park North Main Street entrance. Anyone wishing to volunteer in the operation of the center should contact Dr. Monte Holland, Slippery Rock.*



     Recycling is now a way of life in mostUnited States communities. Monte and I revisited Slippery Rock Park and discovered only the foundation of the barn where the community’s recycling center began. However, there are paper recycling bins at the edge of the parking lot. In the park behind them is an updated, colorful, playground. I assume other recyclables are collected in another manner, perhaps curbside.

     The Pennsylvania community in which we now live, the Ligonier Valley, has an active recycling program operated by the Loyalhanna Watershed Association, located on Old Rt. 30 on the west side of Ligonier. It’s commingled recycling program which collects glass, metal, and plastic. The organization also collects newspapers, collapsed cardboard, and plastic bags.

     Monte and I are proud to live in the quaint but forward-looking Ligonier Valley community, which developed an ongoing electronics recycling center, also operated by the Loyalhanna Watershed Association, long before it was mandated by the government.

     For up to date information on the recycling program click on .

     And, as I sort through our slide collection from the 1970s, I am pleased to locate pictures of our family involvement in the early days of recycling. I am reminded of those early days when we actually tossed glass into barrels to break it, and when we actually transported the recyclables to the businesses dealing with them.



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*Butler Eagle newspaper article, undated


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