EcoErek prepping for annual Earth Day collection driveWritten by Don Lee | | email@example.com
Blue jeans have the blues? Shoes lost their sole?
EcoErek’s here again to help you keep them useful and out of the landfill.
Once again, the Oregon teen — his name is Erek Hansen and he turned 13 this year — is looking to collect more than 4,000 pairs each of worn-out jeans and shoes for delivery to organizations that recycle them into such things as insulation, carpet backing and mulch.
“Keep them out of the landfill,” Erek said, “and donate to a good cause.”
The cause has grown big, and is getting big attention in the last couple of years, according to Amy Hansen, Erek’s mother.
Last year, a write-up in People magazine got spiked from the print edition because of news coverage of the Boston Marathon bombing, but the word got out about the drive that collected 4,477 pairs of jeans and 4,269 pairs of shoes. In September, he was a finalist, making to the last round of judging, for the Barron Prize for Young Heroes. This year, Cotton Inc., corporate parent of the blue jeans recycling drive, wants to send a camera crew out to do a video documentary, she said.
According to Erek’s website, ecoerek.org, the drive started in 2009 with a collection of 1,684 pairs of jeans. That grew to 4,154 pairs in 2010 and, in 2011, the first year shoes were collected, the drive brought in 3,920 pairs of jeans and 3,000 pairs of shoes.
The big year was 2012, when a partnership with Camp Millionaire at Bowling Green State University resulted in a haul of 5,019 pairs of jeans and 4,402 pairs of shoes. Camp Millionaire is a summer day-camp program to teach eighth-graders about “financial literacy” and philanthropy, according to BGSU’s website.
“A partnership like that could happen at any point along the way,” Amy Hansen said. “We’re willing and able to work with any group.”
Despite the haul, Amy Hansen said she’s content for the drive to not get much bigger than it is.
Generally, it’s Erek, his family and some cousins present at all the events, she said. Collecting the shoes and jeans, bagging them and storing them for shipment is “pretty labor intensive,” she said, but manageable.
Erek, though, said he wouldn’t mind seeing it grow.
“I’m happy we’ve grown so much,” he said. “I’d like to see it get bigger as much as I can.”
According to ecoerek.org, the jeans are shredded into cotton fibers and turned into housing insulation for communities hit by natural disasters. The insulation has been used for Habitat for Humanity projects in areas hard-hit by Hurricane Katrina.
The shoes are sorted; serviceable pairs are donated to people who need shoes and shoes that are too far gone are ground up into raw material for sidewalks, running tracks, playground surfaces and carpet backing.
How to donate
Drop-off boxes will be available beginning April 22 — Earth Day — at three area businesses. So far, they’ll be at Once Upon A Child, 194 E. South Boundary St., Perrysburg and 5644 Monroe St., Sylvania; Future Wave Salon, 3324 Navarre Ave., Oregon; and CC Bella Salon, 530 Commerce Blvd., Northwood (jeans only).
The first of three “live drives,” to which people can take their old jeans and shoes for collection, bagging and shipping, will once again be at the Toledo Zoo: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. April 26 in the Anthony Wayne Trail parking lot. Two more are on the schedule: Levis Commons at a date to be determined, and June 14 at Future Wave on Navarre Avenue in Oregon.
All dropboxes are open during their respective stores’ hours; see ecoerek.org for updated details and any additional locations.