By: Lauren Sage Reinlie
After a day’s work as a landscape project manager, Chip Chavous gases up his big green truck, picks up an energy drink and a couple oatmeal cream pies, loads a few TED Talks on the podcast list and heads out to spend another three or four hours on the road, roaming around Walton County.
The 35-year-old loves his day job, but this night shift is his passion. This is what he hopes will not only one day make him a little money, but will make a big difference for the environment.
Chip has started a recycling collection company, EZ-PZ Recycling, with his sights set on offering more and better recycling service for all of Walton County. The county, which blankets over 1,000 square miles from the rural Alabama border to the bustling Gulf coast, has a modest recycling program of its own, but no curbside pick-up.
These late-night trips take Chip all across the county where he stops at about two dozen curbs to empty his bins filled with recyclables.
As the plastic bottles, paper, aluminium cans and glass jars pile up, his brain fills, too. What if we could turn this plastic into backyard fences? The glass into sand to prevent beach erosion? The cans into art? What if we had our own machines to grind and reshape this trash into materials we could use again and again? Could we power these machines with energy from the sun? What would happen if we could eliminate all trash, reuse every piece of the waste we produce?
He stops at the next house and adds to the pile.
By the time Chip is done with his run, he’s collected recycling from Freeport and almost every corner of South Walton. He passes the beach restaurants and shops, the vacation rentals and resort communities that bring over 3.2 million visitors to the area each year. He meanders through the family neighborhoods, home to thousands of people year-round, some with rich histories in the area, others newly transplanted from large metropolitan areas across the Southeast.
Chip believes people truly want to recycle, even enough to pay for it, they just want and need for it to be convenient.
He is ready to sign on entire neighborhoods, vacation rental companies, businesses. One day he hopes to open his own recycling facility, aided with grant funds. He’s always researching his favorite subject, now he just needs the customers.
When Chip returns home from his run, it’s late. He’ll sort the collections tomorrow and then drop them off at a handful of facilities in neighboring counties that accept the materials for recycling.
It’s a modest start to a big problem. But Chip loves to mull the big problems and that might make him the perfect man for the job.