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Understanding recycling

  • LINDA KOEHLER/TIMES NEWS Rita Lacey started her own business, Close the Loop, and works from her office in her Kunkletown home. She markets recycled products.
    LINDA KOEHLER/TIMES NEWS Rita Lacey started her own business, Close the Loop, and works from her office in her Kunkletown home. She markets recycled products.
Published April 04. 2011 05:00PM

Did you know that there are nearly 300 million waste tires that are generated annually in the U.S. 12 million in Pennsylvania alone?

Were you aware that America generates 30 million tons (nearly 60 billion pounds) of plastic waste in a year? (Only 7 percent of plastic waste was recycled in 2006.)

Did you have any idea that the United States generates 13 million tons of waste glass in a year?

Those are the kinds of facts that Rita Lacey of Kunkletown is trying to make more Americans understand, and learn the importance of recycling and be open to supporting companies that sell recycled products. That's why she began her own business called "Close the Loop."

"Close the Loop's mission is to help preserve our environment by viewing our waste as a valuable resource and to assist in the development and marketing of consumer recycled products, which create jobs and helps clean up the environment. A lot of us recycle, and that's good. But we can't stop there," says Lacey.

She believes the three things people need to do to close the loop are:

• Recycle our waste.

• Make something new out of it.

• Buy recycled.

Lacey says recycling is only successful if the population buys new products made out of recycled material.

Close the Loop and Lacey are dedicated to effecting a positive force for social and environmental change within our community by promoting reuse and recycling, building the acceptance and use of alternative recycled material and holding free community events such as "Give and Take Days."

Last year Lacey and her family and friends organized the first Give and Take Day in her community. It was held on Earth Day, April 24, at the Chestnuthill Township Park, Route 715, Brodheadsville. This year the free event will be on Saturday, April 16 from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. at the Chestnuthill Township Park. The idea is to bring your good, reusable but unwanted items and people can take them to reuse in their own homes. There is no charge and no money exchanged.

"Everyone leaves happy," says Lacey.

Lacey grew up recycling, something many raised in a large family understand.

"We didn't throw anything away and made do with what we had."

When she graduated from Norristown High School, she wanted to be an artist. While attending Montgomery County Community College, she switched from art to drafting design when she realized she didn't want to be a 'starving artist.' She graduated with a liberal arts degree in mechanical engineering.

"I really was into computers and began developing programs."

She worked for Burroughs (now Unisys), for Boeing Helicopters in Ridley Park and she became a Unix administrator to IMS in security systems.

"I loved my work," she says of her 15 years in Corporate America.

She left only because she and her husband, Brian, started a family with the birth of their daughter, Mae, 14 years ago.

Lacey enjoyed being a stay-at-home mom but when Mae started kindergarten, she admits she became 'antsy.'

"One day I saw a commercial for buying recycled products. That night, I woke up, sat straight up in bed with the thought, 'Where can I buy recycled products?' It stirred me into researching what people were making and how they were marketing it. What I learned was, the people who made products out of recycled material don't have money to market it."

She decided she was going to look into helping those who made recycled products.

"I figured out that the big environmental problems I wanted to tackle were plastics, tires and glass. I thought, 'I can help those people.'"

When she got the idea of selling recycled products, she realized how it would help the environmental as well.

"There are three Ps in being a socially responsible business: People, Planet, Purpose. I'm trying to get everyone to understand that."

She came up with the name for her business after seeing the phrase "close the loop" many times in her research.

Lacey checked with the state to make sure no one else had the name. As for the graphic to go with her title, she had a framed global map above her desk. The two globes made her think of the word "loop" and she drew arrows around the globes, symbolizing recycling a continuous circle.

"We need to support small manufacturing businesses to keep them here in the USA. We're trying to get the word out to buy online because most recycled products are not sold in box stores."

Close the Loop has become a full-time job and Lacey works from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. "but I could work 24/7, year round."

She tweets and is on Facebook.

"It builds up contacts and trust," she says of today's online technology.

In addition to helping recycling manufacturers find a market, she conducts free classes on website building workshops and for people out of work who want to start their own business at CareerLink.

"When someone is out of work for so long, they can become lost. I want people to be successful and understand that there is hope out there for them. You don't need a million dollars. You need food, shelter and clothes to be happy. I just want to help them be able to be happy," she says.

Lacey thinks our schools should give entrepreneur classes in how to market a business starting from middle school and up.

Someday she hopes to buy a store where people can buy recycled products she promotes, such as decorative pins made out of CDs, earrings and belts from tabs from cans, pencils out of rolled up newspaper, retractable pens made from cardboard, decorative items and cheese boards from wine bottles, recycled bicycle chain bottle openers, hats and purses from plastic bags.

The bigger recycled items that Lacey markets are:

• Plastic wood post and rail fencing made from plastic milk jugs and other recycled plastics made by a small manufacturer in nearby Saylorsburg

• Rubber mulch, rubber timbers and swing mats. Non-toxic, shock absorbing, they do not rot or decay. Products are made from recycled tires and great for playgrounds and equestrian arenas. It doesn't give splinters or harbor insects. It does retard weed growth, minimizes injuries and lasts a lifetime.

• Landscaping garden glass. It has been tumbled to remove sharp edges and comes in a variety of beautiful colors and can be ground as fine as sand for playing in.

Lacey and her family love being outdoors and camping. They want to see the natural world they live and play in be around a long time. Rita works tirelessly on closing the loop when it comes to recycling.

"I hope to build a better world for our children and make a difference in people's lives, and the planet, along the way," she says.

One of her favorite quotes that she tries to live by is from Mahatma Gandhi. "Be the change you wish to see in the world."

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