Before I went to Passport Camp with the Youth Group last week, I would have never thought that sorting through other people’s recycling could be fun and rewarding. Our group, approximately 30 youth from various churches, was assigned to work at a recycling center owned by Habitat for Humanity. (All the proceeds of our work went to providing money to build a house for a family in need.)

When we arrived at the recycling center on the first day, I didn’t know what to expect. We were split into two groups. One group worked outside sorting while the other worked inside bailing. The backside of the building was lined with old, soggy cardboard boxes full of material people “thought” could be recycled. The sorters were responsible for placing (or throwing) the materials in the proper bin. There was one bin for trash, one for cloudy plastic, one for clear plastic, one for aluminum, one for caps, and one for steel. It was quite amusing and often disgusting to sort through the things people recycled. (You really should rinse your cans and bottles. And, under no circumstances, should you put a diaper in your bin!) Sorting was a tedious process, but we made it fun by listening to music to getting to know new people.

The other group used a giant green machine called a bailer. This process involved dumping a trash can full of one type of material into the machine. Then, the bailer crushed its contents in to one big cube. Over the course of the week, we made seven bails. Each material was worth different amounts of money. A bail of aluminum cans was worth about $500 while a bail of cardboard was worth only $50. At the end of the week, we raised between $1,500 and $2,000 which will be used to purchase supplies for the Habitat for Humanity home.

The most important thing I learned from this experience is that hard work can bring people closer together, especially when working for a good cause.