Shining Sumac reds contrasted against Tulip Poplar pale yellows have suddenly appeared after some showers and much cooler mornings for our hometown where fall is running late where forests are in no hurry to shed their leaves for winter.

Many times over the past year and more I have driven along East Highway 25/70 past where used to stand the Wood Products manufacturing plant and saw bales and piles of what looked like assorted plastics.

It has only been this year after chatting with Bill Williams did I find out about Fred Myers Jr.’s interesting new business. I have followed Fred’s career since he managed the Newport Detroit Gasket plant. He later helped move the facility out of state when the owners sold it.

I helped Bill get folks together for a presentation from the Tennessee Resource Conservation and Development Council of which Bill is past president.

Fred could not deal with full retirement more than a few weeks, while his mind kept whirling about his next project beyond gasket manufacturing. He had worked as a consultant many years with a Mexico company that did gasket production.

Fred is fortunate to have his entire family involved including the strong interest and capabilities of his son-in-law Robert Thacker, who is chief operating officer of Myers Diversified.

I like the company motto: “Doing all we can to keep from filling the landfill.” As you know, landfill construction, operations are immensely expensive and Cocke County is not likely to ever build another one.

Before acquiring the former Wood Products site and buildings, Fred and family began their endeavor in October 2017. They soon had as customers ConAgra, English Mountain Spring Water, American Appliance, Ball Corporation and have since added other industries, which deal daily with disposing of tons of waste plastic and certain cardboard recyclables.

For example, I did not give much thought to the recycling and reuse of shrink wrap and banding for boxes and shipping.

Myers also works closely with the Cocke County Landfill. County Mayors Crystal Ottinger and Roland Dykes III are also keen on reducing waste impact on the landfill as a way to save taxpayers’ money.

“We work closely with Chan Hembree, who supervises the landfill,” said Myers. Myers Diversified also helps schools recycle by picking up their waste paper, plastics, and cardboard. The children see this and learn the value of reducing the waste streams into the landfill.

I learned this about one big problem of certain waste: those tough plastic bands. “We don’t want banding in the landfill. It damages the county equipment,” said Myers. “Keep it out of the landfill.”

Mayor Crystal told everyone during our recent tour of the recycler, “We are proud of their efforts. It is a big factor in waste reduction. They are a good partner with the county.”

The Myers family effort has earned Myers Diversified a natural resource award presented in early October by Williams on behalf of the Smoky Mountain Resource Conservation and Development Council. The council applauds Myers for protecting Tennessee’s ecological assets such as rivers, streams, lakes, Martha Sundquist State Park and other public lands.

I learned a lot about the challenges of recycling especially as I try my best to recycle. About a year ago I noticed that county convenience centers stopped accepting paper. Mayor Crystal explained that many people who used to buy the loose paper no longer do because prices paid for newsprint, and loose paper dropped so low.

Sonoco Products is a big buyer of cardboard, which it recycles in its Newport plant to make various cones and shapes. Robert Thacker said that Sonoco might recycle a million to 1.5 million pounds per year.

“We ship a couple of loads of cardboard every week, ten truck loads per week,” said Robert. These are 53-feet long trailers so you can imagine the tons of such paper being kept out of the landfill. “We drop metal cages at various businesses to pickup recyclables.”

Although there is no value most of the time to small recyclers such as Cocke County and Newport, schools and individuals still accept books, newspapers, and magazines that get shipped to WestRock Recycling of Knoxville. This company has paper mills that can use the recycled fibers at least five times.

I plan to revisit Myers recycling facility soon to learn more. But it does look like Fred did the right thing getting off his couch and putting that sharp brain back to work to help our community.

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