Who in this town has dropped off cans in the box behind the library? I have, and I’ve always wondered who collects them, and how on earth they get all the way to a recycling center where money somehow goes to the Ronald McDonald house. Turns out the story goes back 25 years.
In 1991, Marlene Grissett had recently retired from the army and wanted to buy a horse. Her husband Robert was working and she had free time, so she started collecting cans. It became something of a passion to find recyclables, break them down into their individual parts, and bring them to a recycling center where the metals, paper, and cardboard would eventually be used again. Ten years later, Pacific Ranch and Steel had stopped recycling, and Marlene offered to take cans from the Salmon Public Library. The library in turn offered the proceeds to the Grissetts, and they agreed to send the money to the Ronald McDonald House in Boise.
Now that they are both retired, what started as a hobby for Marlene has become a huge service to the Salmon community and to the Ronald McDonald House, which offers a place to stay for families of children who need medical care. The couple spends hours every day crushing cans, sorting, cleaning, and disassembling recyclables. They make regular trips with their truck and trailer loaded to the brim to Western Recycling in Idaho Falls, where the center sends a check directly to the Ronald McDonald House.
Robert makes rounds almost every day to collect recyclables, and people even flag them down just to offload a bag of paper or metal. They pick up newspaper, metals, cans, pull tabs, iPods, car hoods, and more from organizations and individuals in Salmon. Miners Glass, the library, and many other businesses in town take special care to see that they give their recyclables to them because they know it’s going to a charity they appreciate. The North Fork Forest Service office delivers bags of cans from the river runners during the summer. Marty Sheff at Coach Works sends them all their radiators and unwanted car parts, and Marlene says she “got so fast she could take a radiator apart in minutes”.
Recycling isn’t always so fun and games, however. Robert and Marlene have both had to get stitches from stray pieces of glass and sharp edged metal, and although at one time they had a working can crusher, most years they have done it all by hand. It’s hard work, and Robert says “I’ll tell you for sure, from experience. You can retire, and you end up working more than you did.” This year was a low year at 19,500lbs donated, but some years they get more than 4,000 lbs of just aluminum (the lightest recyclable metal). They say it’s all worth it, just to know that what they do helps the community and families in need.
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