Big Red Barrel celebrates a decade of safe drug disposal

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Big Red Barrel

The Big Red Barrel Project is an ambitious endeavor into cleaning up what previously (and in many places, currently) serves as a major health crisis in many communities around the United States: the safe disposal of drugs, medical and recreational alike.

Started by Joe Carney and Terry Murray (pictured above), the project has served to help people all over Livingston County safely dispose of over 15 tons (or 30,000 pounds) of drugs and addictive substances, all with the goal of making Livingston County a safer and healthier place. Having a safe disposal method opens the door for less overdoses and a decreased percentage of drug abuse, all using Big Red Barrels.

I spoke to Carney and Murray to get more information on the project and its purpose, its origins, as well as their plans for the 10th anniversary celebration on Aug. 7.

“[The community] was having its drug take-back day, which happens once a year, and I went to that meeting. Everyone who’s who is sitting at that table, that big plastic table, talking about this one day they’re going to do it. I’m talking about, why don’t we do this every day?” said Carney about how the idea came to fruition.

“We walked around [the recycling center] yard, and we found a seven-foot piece of chimney,” said Murray, on how the first “Big Red Barrels” were constructed. “That was from a paper mill in Muskegon that was razed. We said ‘will this work,’ cut it in half, and said ‘perfect.’ And that’s where the first tube came from.”

Students from Mott’s Community College assisted in the construction of this first Red Barrel.

“We went to the welding program up at Mott’s, talked to Ken and Doris up there, and lo and behold they’re cleaning it, welding it, and making it for us,” Murray said.

“Do you want to know why the barrels are red?” Carney said.

Murray answered: “We went to Campbell’s Collision, and we told Bob Campbell what we were doing, and what we were trying to accomplish. And he asked us, ‘what color do you want?’ And I said, ‘well, what do you have?’ So he called the foreman, and he said ‘We have fire engine red; will that do?’”

The Big Red Barrel Project became a community affair; anyone who wanted to help began pitching in, from the First Lieutenant to students at Mott Community College to small business owners in Livingston County.

The message of the project was simple, and it made people want to make it a reality; Carney and Murray’s vision was realized, and they have continued to grow their vision ever since, culminating in the
project we see now.

“We have various organizations, you have the VFWs, the legions, community organizations, that love to contribute to a good cause – and within a couple of weeks, they have enough money to purchase six barrels.” Says Murray, on the community effort to make the disposal system more accessible for people within and outside Livingston County.

The Big Red Barrel Project celebrated its 10th anniversary on Aug. 7 with its 4th annual golf outing, the LCCA’s only fundraiser. It was dubbed one of the top coalitions in the nation for preventing and reducing youth substance abuse, and notable public figures such as U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin attended the event. Carney and Murray were awarded high honors for their work with the project, and hope that more Big Red Barrels will pop up in varying Michigan counties many more years to come.

You can read more about the Big Red Barrel Project by clicking here.

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