CURTICE, OHIO – Ever throw out a pair of jeans just because there was a hole in the knee?
Not Erek Hansen. The 14-year-old has taken “reduce, reuse, recycle” to a whole new level.
His passion for recycling began when he was 9. He read a magazine article about an attempt to rate highest in the Denim Jean Collection Category of the Guinness Book of World Records.
Hansen sent in some of his jeans, enough to make him the top donor and to set the new record. He was honored at the Guinness Book of World Records presentation in Washington, D.C., for his denim contributions.
He was hooked after that. Hansen began holding annual denim and shoe drives. The items are collected, stored and then shipped once a year to recycling centers.
After he has collected the items, they are then shipped to Arizona where the jeans are shredded and used for insulation in the homes of U.S. disaster victims. Hansen’s contributions have helped victims of Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Sandy.
Once a year, Hansen and his mother, Amy, load the shoes they have collected into a U‑Haul truck. They meet with representatives from a recycling center that pick up the items halfway between Curtice and Chicago.
“The shoes are ground up into different things,” Erek told the News Herald. “The heels become basketball courts, and the tops are used to make carpet padding and car insulation.”
To date, Erek has collected and recycled 23,937 pairs of jeans and 13,877 shoes.
Though the Hansen family was already involved in recycling, Erek took it the extra mile.
“I think what interested Erek was the ability to take something no longer useful, like holey jeans, and make them useful again by recycling them,” Amy explained to the News Herald. “They become part of a new product that can help people. Just by donating jeans, you can help families in need.”
Due to his outstanding recycling efforts, Erek has received many awards, including the Keep America Beautiful Youth Recognition Award. To read more about Erek’s recycling efforts and where and when you can donate, visit www.gogreenohio.org.
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