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Eco-friendly junk haulers try to keep it out of the landfill

GREENSBORO — Among stacks of used furniture and appliances, Kris Sharpe ducks into a crevice between a refrigerator and an office desk and reaches for something.

It’s an old photo album.

He flips it open to reveal pages of black and white photos that are of a Greenland airbase in the 1940s.

“The same guy that had this had a lot of really old stuff and record players and old golf clubs. I held on to it because I thought it was neat,” said Sharpe, the operations manager for a company called Junk-King.

You know the old saying about one man’s trash?

Well, this story is a little different.

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Junk-King is among a growing number of eco-friendly trash haulers — yes, you read that right — who go to great lengths to keep as much stuff as they can out of local landfills.

The same is true for College Hunks Hauling and Junk Moving, another local operation.

Ditto for Greensboro-based Junk Pros.

Of course, it wasn’t always this way.

There was a time when trash was, you know, trash. Unwanted TVs and couches ended up in places like the White Street Landfill without much thought to the environment.

But science has shown it takes time for all that trash to break down, releasing toxins that are harmful to the air and soil.

It’s become a concern for environmentalists, especially as landfills continue to run out of space. But they say the solution comes down to this: Limit the amount of trash that gets dumped.

And now, a number of burgeoning companies across the country like Junk-King have taken that idea to heart and turned it into a business.

Their model is simple: They’ll haul your stuff away. But before dumping it, they’ll take out anything that can be reused so that it can be sold or donated.

“Most people in America don’t recycle. That’s what Junk-King is trying to promote. Let’s be green while hauling stuff away,” said Mark Patterson, owner of Junk-King.

He added that avoiding the landfill is not just good for the environment but business, too. An average fee for dumping is around $130 per truck load, but can go higher depending on the weight.

The company has nine employees and between its three trucks, picks up as many as 20 loads a day.

Patterson said about half the stuff goes to the landfill. The rest gets recycled or taken to their Greensboro warehouse for sorting.

And you won’t believe what they’ve hauled away.

“Some people have given us vending machines. Massive amounts of refrigerators and freezers. Office stuff. A lot of odds and ends,” Patterson said.

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According to some estimates, the U.S. generates roughly 250 million tons of solid waste each year.

Food scraps. Magazines. Packaging. The list could go on.

Around 35% gets recycled. The rest goes to landfills.

And therein lies the problem: Landfills are running out of room.

The country has about 2,000 of them and some are near capacity.

New York, for instance, has resorted to shipping its trash to other states.

Companies like Triad Junk Removal are committed to making sure that whatever gets taken to the landfill is something that just can’t be recycled. The Greensboro-based company, which employs 10 and hauls between 50 and 100 loads a month, has cleaned out such high-profile sites as the Kress Building and the old Sears catalog center.

“We do recycle as much as we can,” said Scott Capamaggio, who runs the company with his son, Nick.

Many items such as tires, televisions and appliances can’t be taken to a landfill because they have toxic chemicals or parts. Instead, they have to go to special facilities.

“Sometimes we have to charge more for those items because we get charged for them,” explained Susen Patterson, who operates Junk-King with her husband, Mark. “At least it’s not going into the landfill.”

Instead, it might end up at a local thrift store.

If, say, a table is in good shape, some junk hauling companies will donate it to second-hand stores like Goodwill and The Salvation Army.

Capamaggio said he works with Treasure Junction, a High Point furniture outlet and thrift store.

“It keeps it out of the landfill and keeps people employed and does a service,” Capamaggio said.

Junk Pros also focuses on donations.

“We do a lot of work with estate-sale companies, for instance, and we take the time to box it up and take it to a charity of their preference,” owner Zack Brown said.

Junk Pros frequently takes items to Goodwill and Freedom House, a Greensboro thrift store.

“If there is a way that we can donate it, we always do that,” Brown said.

Customers do pay for all of this hauling. An average 18-cubic-yard load — the equivalent of about six pickup truck loads — will set you back about $500 at Junk-King.

Customers who want to do their own purging can rent dumpsters from companies like Triad Junk. Capamaggio said his staff will go so far as to cull items from those dumpsters before heading to the landfill.

He recalls a recent pickup when his crew found a sculpture that looked like a dinosaur made of welded metal and gears. It took two men to lift it so it could be taken to Treasure Junction.

“We get literally anything you can think of at some point or another,” Capamaggio said.

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While most hauls aren’t glamorous, there is a sense of wonder when something special is discovered.

A 1930s-era copy of “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” — written in German — was one such find made by Junk-King.

Sharpe, the company’s operations manager, will try to sell those items on websites like Letgo, VarageSale and Facebook Marketplace. What is made from the sale helps offset dumping fees — and again, one less thing that has to be taken to the landfill.

College Hunks movers found a folded American flag in a display case while loading discarded items from a nursing home.

“That’s something we didn’t want to throw away,” Manager Jon Lewis said.

So it was donated to a veteran’s organization.

Whether for profit or goodwill, eco-friendly haulers try to be good stewards of other people’s trash. Like the time Junk-King picked up a bunch of industrial baking sheets from a business and donated them to Meals on Wheels.

“I feel like we’re not only helping people,” Susen Patterson said, “we’re saving it going into the landfill.”


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AP
Rev. Graham's tour evokes evangelical support for Trump

GREENVILLE — The Rev. Franklin Graham did not utter the word “impeachment” as he spoke to thousands of Christians here last week, the latest stop on a long-running tour he has dubbed Decision America — a title with political and religious undertones.

But evangelicals who turned out to see Graham didn’t necessarily need his warning that “our country is in trouble” in order to tap into their deep-rooted support for President Donald Trump during an intensifying political crisis hundreds of miles north in Washington.

“I do feel like we are, as Christians, the first line of defense for the president,” Christina Jones, 44, said before Graham took the stage. Trump is “supporting our Christian principles and trying to do his best,” she added, even as “everybody’s against him.”

The impeachment furor is the latest test of Trump’s seemingly unbreakable bond with conservative evangelical Christians. Trump has suggested that the peril of impeachment would only cement his ties to that voting bloc, which helped propel him into office, and supporters who have stood by him through accusations of sexual misconduct and infidelity see no reason to back away from a president they view as unfairly beleaguered.

Frances Lassiter, 65, dismissed Democrats’ pursuit of a case against Trump as “all a bunch of crap” designed to push him from office.

Asked about comments Trump circulated from an ally and Southern Baptist pastor who warned of a “civil war-like fracture” if the investigation succeeds, Lassiter and others in the crowd at Graham’s tour shared concerns about political polarization putting further strain on the country.

“Could have a war ... you just don’t know,” Lassiter said. “It’s scary.”

Graham sounded a similar note in an interview with The Associated Press aboard his tour bus. The 67-year-old evangelist and son of the late Rev. Billy Graham said the inquiry into Trump’s solicitation of help from Ukrainian leaders in investigating former Vice President Joe Biden was “a lot over nothing.”

“It’s going to destroy this country if we let this continue,” Graham said of the impeachment investigation, urging Americans “to come together as a nation and focus on the problems” that beset both parties, such as immigration and international trade.

Graham sought to keep his tour, which he opened in 2016 and took to a half-dozen northeastern states earlier this year, separate from politics. But he also openly echoed arguments Trump has made in pressing Ukraine-related corruption allegations against Biden.

Trump has tried to sully Biden in scandal, questioning his Democratic rival’s role steering the Obama administration’s relationship with Kyiv while son Hunter Biden was named to the board of a Ukrainian gas company. Although some anti-corruption watchdogs raised eyebrows, no evidence of improper actions by the Democratic presidential hopeful or his son has materialized.

Graham, for his part, encouraged Trump and others to keep looking, citing the vice president’s son’s acknowledged drug addiction as a reason Hunter Biden is “suspect.”

“So it’s probably worth looking into to see what Vice President Biden (did) at the time, what kind of promises he made to help his son with the Ukrainians.”

According to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, 13,800 people attended Graham’s event last week in Greenville, seat of a county that Trump won in 2016. Greenville also hosted a July Trump rally where the audience broke into a derogatory chant against a freshman congresswoman who had drawn Trump’s ire. The strong turnout for Graham underscores the formidable reach of the evangelist’s message in his home and occasional swing state of North Carolina.

Graham’s preaching tour featured another touch, one more reminiscent of a political rally: counter-programming from evangelicals on the left. An hour outside of Greenville, a group of progressive Christians led by the Rev. William Barber and his Poor People’s Campaign held a “Red Letter Revival” last week to offer an alternate vision of policymaking aligned with Biblical values.

That revival aims to redefine public understanding of issues of faith, encompassing an inclusive immigration agenda as well as more focus on helping the poor and the environment, explained Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, a liberal evangelical preacher helping to organize it.

Wilson-Hartgrove described Graham’s tour as a “coordinated effort to intertwine” religion and conservative politics. While he had little hope that supportive evangelicals would abandon the president for “personally offensive” actions, Wilson-Hartgrove cast impeachment as “a moral question.”

“Does a president of any party have a sort of unquestioned right to, in this case, break (Federal Election Commission) rules and to break the law in order to win an election?” Wilson-Hartgrove asked in an interview. “It’s a question of right and wrong which people of faith should have concerns about.”

In the crowd at Graham’s tour, which stops in Greensboro on Wednesday, believers had reserved their concern for Trump’s Democratic antagonists.

“They’re just digging things up and making things up just to try to take him down, and I don’t think that’s fair,” said Mike Fitzgerald, 64.

That sentiment tracks with polling which shows an overwhelming majority of white evangelical Protestants consistently expressing approval of Trump’s handling of his job since his inauguration, according to Pew Research Center data.

In August, a Pew Research survey found 77% of white evangelical Protestants approving of Trump’s performance. Those who report attending church weekly were more likely to approve than those who attend less often, 81% to 73%.

Graham has said that he invites all races, religions and sexual orientations to hear him, although he has aired anti-LGBTQ views. He reiterated them when asked about Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind., a married gay man and devout Christian seeking the Democratic presidential nomination.

Graham’s father, a renowned preacher who died last year, aired regrets later in his life about having “sometimes crossed the line” in his involvement in politics.

Franklin Graham said he is cognizant of his late father’s perspective, averring that “you want to be careful, because politicians are going to want to use you.”

But he did not appear to count Trump in that judgment: “One thing I appreciate about President Trump, he’s not a politician. And that’s why he gets in trouble all the time,” Graham said.


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