Recycling has always been a part of Asia Jones-Carr’s life.

A California native who works as a recycling coordinator for the City of San Antonio’s Solid Waste Management Department, Jones-Carr recalls growing up browsing through the “pick-and-pull” junkyard her grandfather owned and ran in Riverside.

“I don’t know if you know about California, but they’re big on the environment and of course on organics and recycling,” she said.

Jones-Carr’s passion for recycling has been a constant during her 17-year career with the city so much so that she has written two children’s books aimed at encouraging the younger set to reduce, reuse and recycle. Jones-Carr’s first book, Where Does It Go?, tells children about the journey recyclables take in San Antonio after they are collected from residents’ blue bins, while her second book, What Happens? explains how composting and recycling organic materials work.

As a recycling coordinator, Jones-Carr visits San Antonio schools and outreach centers, where she educates local residents about the benefits of recycling. She has made presentations to more than a hundred classrooms, ranging from Pre-K 4SA to senior centers.

Jones-Carr focuses on ensuring San Antonio residents know what type of materials can be recycled and on educating them about which bin each type of recyclable item goes into.

“You would think a pizza box goes in your blue bin for recycling, right? Wrong! It goes in your green bin — since those boxes are made of organic material, paper — which comes from trees,” Jones-Carr said.

Asia Jones-Carr says she collects random items from friends — such as this donut box — to use during demonstrations at schools to teach children about how each item should be disposed of. Credit: Bria Woods / San Antonio Report

As awareness of protecting the environment and reducing waste has grown, the importance of educating the younger generation about what happens to items they might consider trash was the impetus for Jones-Carr’s first book.

Jones-Carr originally intended to add just a couple of pages to the activity books for children the Solid Waste Management Department had already, but the additions soon became an entire short story.

Marcus Lee, who became the marketing manager and public information officer for the Solid Waste Management Department in 2017, had the idea of turning the short story into a children’s book. It’s been a beneficial teaching tool since then, Carr said, especially when lessons had to be done virtually during the pandemic.

“Asia consistently receives very high praise from the schools,” Lee said. “Her books are great examples of going above and beyond. Asia is a great ambassador for the department.”

Her second book took a bit more planning, however — and a lot more research because the process organic recycled material goes through is more complicated, Jones-Carr said.

Both books were illustrated by Teresa Riojas, a self-taught graphic designer with the Solid Waste Management Department.

Jones-Carr said she never expected to write children’s books about recycling, but that in her efforts to teach people about the complexities behind recycling she “sort of just wrote one.”

Jones-Carr said she came to Texas following her own mother, who moved to Houston in the late 1980s. While Jones-Carr said she lived “all over the place” in her 20s, she eventually settled in San Antonio about 25 years ago after again following her mom to a new city.

Prior to working for the city, Jones-Carr worked for the Bexar County Sheriff’s Department for five years. While it was a rewarding job at times, Jones-Carr said it could also be exhausting and at times was very tough.

It was during this time that a friend of hers suggested to Jones-Carr she should try being a foster parent, Jones-Carr said. That’s how she became a mother, first to a little girl — then to the girl’s twin brothers.

The second book’s main character, a young Black girl named Tyler, is based on Jones-Carr’s oldest daughter.

At a recent book signing that Jones-Carr did for local children, she was asked if she would be writing a third children’s book anytime soon.

“I said, ‘Woah there, slow down, I just came out with this second one!'” Carr said with a laugh. “Well, I best get to work on that, I guess,” she added.

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Lindsey Carnett

Lindsey Carnett covers the environment, science and utilities for the San Antonio Report.