Aluminum Barons

Aluminum Barons

(excerpted from The Laurel Leader)

by Larry L Smith 1992

In the early 1980’s my father was famous for reviving recycling aluminum before it became popular in the 1990’s. In 1979 he was on his way toward’s recycling (son-of). How? His car was a can crusher. He would drive over the cans repeatedly, thereby smashing them into crumpled square pieces of aluminum.

He would then gather the crumpled cans, put them in leaf bags and sell them to the scrap dealer. He and fellow “comrade” James C. Amis would collect over 200 pounds per month from the Laurel area. They received a penny per can.

Of course, Daddy was in it for the money but, he also wanted to clean up the streets. He said litter, and garbage on the roadsides is, “sickening. “

Aluminum Barons

James C. Amis and Milton Smith take a break on a hot day while crushing cans. Find out how these “Aluminum Barons” most make a living from collecting cans for recycling. See page A-3 Staff photo by Keith Weller.

He had goals, too. He wanted to start his own recycling center in Laurel, with Amis. He contacted (BIRP) Beverage Industry Recy­cling Program in Maryland, and consulted with Bob Evers. The talks with Evers were positive, but produced no results.

Part of my fathers idea for recycling was; if we recycle at home, we won’t be as dependent on foreign sources. He said, “The less we buy from them, the less money leaves the country.”

Commenting on the profitability of recycling, in 1980 he said, “You can almost make a living at it-it’s profitable.”, because, “In the U.S. there are only two states with marketable bauxite, which is where aluminum comes from.”
(Talk about foresight! 10 years later “everyone” recycles.)

My father wanted to get the public involved in his recycling efforts. So, late in 1980 he and Amis were going to sponsor an “Aluminum can throwing contest”, for boys and girls in the Laurel area. You had to bring 230 cans to participate.

Prizes would be rewarded for farthest thrown can (to test how difficult it is to throw an aluminum can, Go ahead and try it, make me pray.) and prizes for “most accurately thrown” can. (You can imagine; This contest would be judged by what kind of a thrower you were, a discus type thrower? javelin, pitcher, or quarterback type? or Whatever!) All seriousness aside, I don’t-know how you would judge someone for “accurately” throwing aluminum. Would you?

OK, Moving right along.
The vision my father had for recycling was in its prime.
Other people did get involved as we can well see in this: the 1990’s.

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