Written by Seth Kern, AmeriCorps member with Zero Waste

On a mission to rejuvenate Fleming Township’s environment, the Rural Action Zero Waste team spearheaded a significant clean-out operation of an abandoned bookstore, with the invaluable assistance of national service members from multiple Rural Action host sites and other devoted local individuals.

A staggering 20,920 lbs of books were salvaged from the decayed premises.Those books that were recoverable were sent to Royal Paper, an organization with a commendable mission. They not only collect and pay for paper scrap but ensure its sustainable transportation to paper mills, paving the way for the paper’s next life. This approach promotes a recycling cycle that benefits individuals, the paper industry, and most importantly, the environment.

Apart from books that could be rescued, the team also collected E-waste, cardboard, and rotted books, amounting to a total of 1,780 lbs. of materials diverted from the waste stream. These materials found their way to the Athens Hocking Recycling Center. The center will further direct the E-waste downstream to specialized facilities for extraction of valuable components. The deteriorated books, on the other hand, will be composted at the Athens Hocking Organics facility, ensuring an eco-friendly disposal method.

The bookstore, once a hub of activity in the 1980s, had been forsaken for over a decade. Its abandonment led to the accumulation of vast piles of books, with those at the base deteriorating to a mushy, mud-like consistency, underscoring the extent of neglect the structure endured over the years.

This clean-out not only exemplified community spirit and environmental responsibility but also emphasized the significance of sustainable waste management and recycling. Through such endeavors, we are reminded of the potential to breathe new life into forgotten spaces and materials.