Hagerstown couple finds endless recyclables on daily walk

October 06, 2011|By JANET HEIM |
  • Hagerstown residents John Lenahan and Marcia Toder pick up recyclables during their daily walks around their North End home.
By Joe Crocetta, Staff Photographer

It only takes John Lenahan about a one- to two-mile walk from his North End home to collect more recyclables than he can carry.

Some days he'd venture farther from home, but he has to unload the plastic grocery bags filled with aluminum soda cans and plastic bottles.

Once home, the trash he's collected goes into his recycling bins, since Hagerstown residents have curbside pickup.

Lenahan's also quick to remove the lids on plastic bottles, aware that sealed up bottles get washed into storm drains and take up a lot of room because they can't be crushed.

Sadly, he can walk the same route the next day and pick up just as much, a fresh batch of garbage that seems to sprout overnight.

"It's unbelievable," Lenahan said.

Lenahan, who is a Realtor, said he's even more productive when he walks with his partner of more than 20 years, Marcia Toder, because she seems to have an eagle eye for spotting recyclables.

The couple said the area around North Hagerstown High School is "a fertile area during the school year."

Lenahan, 60, started his cleanup efforts in Hagerstown several years ago after a trip to the beach, concerned as much about animal safety as community pride.

While walking in the surf, Lenahan encountered a seagull tangled in fishing line. A French woman helped him rescue the bird and send it on its way.

"It's a real positive feeling when you've done something like that," Lenahan said.

Toder, who is from Pittsburgh, said Lenahan, who is from Cleveland, started by using his pockets or handing things to her. Both have lived in Hagerstown about 30 years.

"I think what John does is a stellar effort in keeping the planet clean. I commend him. I've seen him pick up stuff in a suit and tie," Toder said.

Lenahan said he once found a hypodermic needle near where children play.

"Now, instead of watching the horizon, I look down," he said.

Lenahan has had people thank him and say they also pick up trash. There are other people who ask him how much money he makes, thinking he's collecting the trash for a profit.

He goes a step further and fixes discarded items that can be reused and finds new homes for furniture, old TVs and other items that have life beyond the landfill.

Between their recycling efforts and steps to reduce their waste, including composting — Toder is a Master Gardener — the couple generate very little garbage.

"Between the two of us, we don't fill a fast food bag of garbage once a week," Lenahan said.

Lenahan and Toder think it comes down to being more attentive and caring.

"The point is to be more conscious and make a difference, to have some responsibility for our planet," Toder said.

"I think a lot of people don't want to get involved," Lenahan said.

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