The calves at the Leonard farm in Midland are lolling in the comfort of their pens, atop bedding made from confidential documents.
A nonprofit agency for sex abuse victims in Warrenton is moving used county furniture into place as it outfits its new offices.
And in Delaplane, George Beavers is hauling away a junked Honda from an overgrown meadow.
That is the report from the front lines of recycling in small-town America, where curbside pickup of cans, plastics and bottles common to big cities is still a luxury for many and where a committed few are searching for new ways to keep a few more tons of junk out of the state's famously accessible landfills.
Of course, most items recycled in Fauquier County, about 80 percent to 90 percent, still come from the traditional programs administered by the Department of Environmental Services, which picks up newspapers, plastic and glass from five drop sites across the county and operates the curbside "Blue Bag" recycling program in Warrenton.
But the extra measure of recycling that puts the county above state-mandated requirements is provided by a two-person office, consisting of Benji Brackman and Heather Sewell. They run a boutique of sorts, on funds the office generates itself as well as healthy doses of grant money.
"We're always looking for new ways to recycle," said Brackman, whose official title is director of the Recycling, Litter Control and Surplus Property Office. She was the county's gypsy moth coordinator back in the dark days of the infestation during the late '80s and early '90s.
Now her job is to keep certain types of litter from infesting the county. Her office does it, mainly, through three programs: destroying confidential documents from area businesses and government offices; recycling junked automobiles; and distributing surplus supplies from county government and residents.
In 1995, the Fauquier Board of Supervisors set a recycling goal of 30 percent of waste, 5 percent more than the state requires--and met the goal two years later.
"We provide the margin," said Brackman, who has a master's degree in environmental science from Indiana University.
The office, with a budget of about $160,000, is supposed to turn a profit, and sometimes it comes close. But the chief value of the services, Brackman said, is to keep junk out of the environment.
One example is the program used by banks, law enforcement, school divisions and accounting agencies, among others, that pay the county to destroy documents as required by law. "We don't even have to advertise," Brackman said. "We're turning away business."
On a recent day, Joseph and Sherry Hallett, who do contract work for the county, fed more than a ton of documents into a shredding machine. The machine, housed in the recycling program's headquarters in Warrenton, can handle about 800 pounds an hour. The paper is brought in secured containers and sorted first. The white paper is sold to a Fairfax County company--the going rate lately is $90 per ton.
"I saw some 'wanted' posters from the bank today," Hallett said, as she adjusted the bag at the receiving end of the shredder.
Because the mixed paper--colors, stripes--wouldn't sell, the county gives it away in bags to farmers who use it for bedding. "The cows are lying on your bank statements and on little Johnny's report card," Brackman said.
At the Al-Mara farm in Midland, Jeff and Patty Leonard are some of the patrons of the program. "The shredded paper seems to absorb a lot more moisture than the traditional straw. . . . We've been pleased with it," Patty Leonard said.
Brackman explained that when shredded documents first became available last year, under a program funded by a grant from the Virginia Center for Innovative Technology, they were tested on goats, cows and horses that had been using shredded newspaper as bedding. The horses began eating the new material, so now it is offered to only cows.
The used bedding can be composted and will degenerate more readily amid air and animal waste than in a landfill. About 10 tons of paper is processed each month, about 30 percent of it mixed paper.
The automobile recycling program, run by Beavers since 1985, generates much more tonnage and keeps Freon, oil and battery acid from seeping into the earth, because he removes those materials before taking the vehicle for demolition.
"You have hundreds of thousands of these things wrecked each year, and they would just be sitting around," said Beavers, 68, who ran an auto shop in The Plains before he obtained the county contract, funded largely by a grant from the Department of Motor Vehicles.
According to county figures, 1,380 tons of scrap metal were recycled from the recovered vehicles in the most recent fiscal year, and 16.5 tons of hazardous materials were withdrawn from the cars.
Under the third program, Brackman and Sewell distribute surplus desks, typewriters and other flotsam from county offices.
"We get some strange things," said Sewell, citing as an example a box of disinfectant blocks for urinals that was donated anonymously. "No one would claim them."
Much of the material leaves during quarterly auctions, which can raise as much as $10,000, and nonprofit groups have been allowed to pick from the wares. A counseling center recently outfitted its entire office that way, Brackman said.
"Anything that we would have to get rid of here would have to go into the county landfills," Brackman.
CAPTION: Shredded paper courtesy of county program is calf bedding at Al-Mara farm.