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Hometown Hero | Rowan Zoeller

Published: Sep. 3, 2021 at 6:44 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) - Families and friends flock to Haddad Riverfront Park in Charleston every Friday during the summer months to enjoy a night of music and other entertainment at Live on the Levee.

Those crowds create a lot of trash that fills cans placed around the amphitheater and Kanawha Boulevard. During the past five years, Rowan Zoeller has volunteered her time to convince people to put less in the trash cans and more in new recycling bins.

Rowan started with her own homemade cover to convert a trash can to recycling, and over time she has helped the city give more cans and plastic bottles a second life at the recycling center. City leaders said Rowan has helped triple the amount of recycling at Live on the Levee through collections and education.

“I’m very passionate about recycling, and this was a great opportunity for me to work with the city to increase the recycling that is getting processed in the city,” Rowan said. “It is just help with education and help the city workers collect as much as we can.”

Rowan starts every Friday night by tying plastic bags to her belt to collect any recyclable materials she finds in the area. She will then walk around the seating area and surrounding sections of the riverfront where people leave trash. Rowan even digs through the city’s many recycling bins to ensure people have not put anything that can’t be recycled in them.

The payoff comes at the end of the night, Rowan said, when there is a big pickup truck with its bed packed full with recycling. Her goal is to keep as much material out of landfills as possible.

“A lot of that is just education,” Rowan said. “People not even realizing that their recycling bins out because it’s not around a lot of places. Being a volunteer, helping go around people who are enjoying the show, I can get them from them and collect them. They sometimes have a whole stash for me. I can take a bag over and they dumped it in and that way we don’t have to worry about them getting in the trash.”

“She’s really, really passionate,” assistant to the mayor Jane Bostic said. “She doesn’t miss. She’s here every single week and she will let people know, ‘oh don’t put that in that trashcan we can recycle that.’ So we love Roane and her passion, but more importantly we love the important role she’s doing and helping the city.”

Bostic said Rowan has helped inspire others in the city to increase the amount they recycle. The Green Team is also working to increase recycling at Live on the Levee by providing additional recycling bins to reduce trash even further.

“It’s really made a huge difference at the end of the night when they collect what goes to the landfill and into the recycling,” Bostic said. “You’ll be surprised at how environmentally conscious people are.”

Rowan is always looking for other volunteers to help her at Live on the Levee. Anyone who is interested can contact the Mayor’s Office.

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