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Centre County recycling coordinator retires after more than three decades

Joanne Shafer
Niceiry Marizan
Joanne Shafer in her Lemont home.

Joanne Shafer, the recycling coordinator at the Centre County Recycling and Refuse Authority, retired on Feb. 29 after more than 33 years. She was the longest serving recycling coordinator in Pennsylvania.

Looking back on what inspired her work, Shafer said she grew up down the block from a river that was too contaminated to fish from and with a fogged up sunrise because of air pollution. So when she attended an environmental education program in junior high school, she said she had an epiphany.

“It really ignited in me kind of a passion for all things environmental because I could see what the effects were,” Shafer said.

Fast forward, and Shafer became one of Pennsylvania’s first 12 Senior Certified Recycling Professionals. In 2022, the Centre County Recycling and Refuse Authority processed over 11,000 tons of recyclables.

“Putting your recycling out curbside is the single easiest environmental action that a person can take," Shafer said. "The flip side of that, though, is sometimes people think it absolves them from thinking about things like climate change.”

Shafer said her side passion is educating people on sustainability. She said her proudest moment was accompanying a group of elementary school students to the White House when they won the President's Environmental Youth Award.

“My heart swells now even talking about it. They were fifth graders," she said. "Those kids are in college now. I’m aware of at least one that is studying environmental sciences.”

A bouquet of purple roses in a vase.
Niceiry Marizan
Joanne Shafer's home is full of retirement bouquets from well-wishers.

After being the face of recycling in Centre County for so long, Shafer said she heard from a lot of well-wishers when she retired. Her home is now decorated with celebratory flowers, including from her local Trader Joe’s.

“The cashier asked me ‘Oh, I heard you’re retiring. When is that?’ And I said, 'Oh, about 30 minutes ago to be exact.' And she said, ‘Oh, here let me take those off your bill.’ So, Trader Joe’s actually gave me flowers for my retirement,” she said.

Niceiry Marizan is a radio news intern at WPSU.