The Chester County Solid Waste Department and Keep Chester County Beautiful, both located at the West Tennessee Regional Recycling Hub in Chester County, TN, partner to increase recycling and educate residents, businesses, and schools on environmental topics like recycling, composting, landfills, and litter prevention. All three organizations work together to provide environmental leadership and promote stewardship in the community and surrounding rural areas.
The West TN Regional Recycling Hub was started in 2010 with Chester County and the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) and partners with more than 14 rural counties and cities, and over 250 businesses and industries to process and increase recycling in rural areas. Chester County Solid Waste Department received more than $7 million dollars in grant funding from the TN Department of Environment and Conservation and TN Department of Transportation (TDOT) over the last 12 years. Since 2010, the Hub has formed effective partnerships working towards the common goal of increasing recycling, environmental education and outreach, and waste diversion. The Education and Outreach program was started in 2010 by the Recycling Coordinator and Solid Waste Director to educate residents about recycling and litter prevention. The Recycling Coordinator, then Amber Greene, started building an environmental educational program to teach residents and students about litter and recycling, attending festivals, educating students in school classrooms, and hosting tours of the recycling center. Since then, the education and outreach program has grown over the years.
In 2015, Chester County Solid Waste Department joined Keep Tennessee Beautiful (KTNB) to become an affiliate of the organization and Keep Chester County Beautiful was created by Recycling Coordinator, Greene, because she saw the need to join KTNB’s mission of behavior change toward litter prevention in Tennessee. “Environmental education and outreach is so important in our community and surrounding communities because it helps teach future generations about the importance of the environment. Working together helps communities educate and change behavior towards litter prevention and recycling,” says Greene, who is currently the Solid Waste Director and KCCB Executive Director.
New Campaign Slogan
In 2018, the Hub launched the Volunteer to Recycle campaign to educate residents and shortly after received a TDOT beautification grant for the West Tennessee Observation and Education Classroom. Education and Outreach are the keys to lowering contamination in recycled goods coming into the Hub and helping residents understand the materials the Hub recycles. The Volunteer to Recycle campaign is shared with the Hub and the counties that partner with the Hub. Using the Volunteer to Recycle program helps each county or industry decrease contamination by educating their employees and residents. The Hub uses social media to advertise the Volunteer to Recycle Campaign to teach residents about No Waste Wednesday, Household Hazardous Waste, what is Recyclable at the Hub, Tennessee Litter Hotline, and information on tours and educational programs.
The West TN Education and Observation classroom is a one-of-a-kind facility that opened in 2019. Since then, the Hub and its partner organizations have educated more than 5,000 students and residents in West Tennessee. The Hub hosts tours of the classroom and offers 12 different hands-on STEM activity stations in the classroom including one for preschool students. The 12 stations include litter prevention, recycling, landfills, composting, and a water table, which is the newest addition to show the negative effects of how litter affects roads, crops, waterways, wildlife, and travels through creeks and lakes to the ocean to contaminate it. The Hub has over 25 environmental programs offered every year to involve the community, schools, and businesses. The Hub and KCCB also have an educational online toolkit on their website that is printable, and it follows the classroom activity stations with coloring sheets, facts of recycling, litter prevention, and crossword puzzles.
Environmental Camp and Education Programs
The West TN Regional Recycling Hub and Keep Chester County Beautiful held the first Environmental Camp at the Observation and Education classroom in July 2023. The camp was designed to teach students about the importance of recycling, litter prevention, landfills, and composting with hands on craft activities, and understand operations of a MRF. The camp was sponsored by Keep Tennessee Beautiful and was free to the community.
The West TN Mobile Classroom trailer was designed and developed by the Recycling Coordinator in 2019. The mobile classroom was funded by a Southwest Electric grant and is a smaller replicate of the classroom. In the mobile classroom, there are six STEM stations that replicate the Observation and Education classroom stations at the Recycling Hub along with a new trailer wrap on the classroom. The goal of the mobile classroom is to take the classroom to events in Chester County and other counties to provide a much-needed resource to teach environmental education in rural West Tennessee. The mobile classroom was finished in 2019 and teaches students about litter, recycling, landfills, and has hands-on activity stations like the recycled magnet game, recycled metal picture sculpture, and landfill model. The Recycling Hub and Keep Chester County Beautiful attended touch a truck day with the mobile classroom in July in partnership with the Chester County Library to give out more than 300 car litter bags and teach residents and students about the environment. In March, the Hub partnered with Robin Chance, Recycling Coordinator for the City of Jackson, Tom Brandon from WM, and Jackson Christian School to educate students on career day. “Partnering with the Hub helps create a more cohesive and systematic education plan, which only helps every municipality in this region reinforce their investments into their own education program through a common goal. For this reason, I am a major advocate in working with other local cities and counties and urge everyone to look at these types of partnerships to maximize their resources, said Chance. The program focused on students understanding the importance of recycling, solid waste, and learning about the industry.
“Educating future generations about careers in the solid waste and recycling industry is important, because solid waste workers help provide an essential service by keeping communities clean and more sustainable, while providing individuals with meaningful employment and benefits,” says Brandon, WM’s TN Public Sector Representative.
For the last two years KCCB and the Hub have partnered with Keep TN Beautiful to host multiple events like “Can You Dig This?” The goal of the events is to teach residents and students to reuse tires and turn them into beautiful tire planters, like ladybugs, bumblebees, and frogs. A bumble bee and butterfly garden were planted to help the bees, butterflies, and the beautification efforts in the community along with the tire planters. The events have been hosted at Heritage Preschool, Chester County Library, Chester County High School Green House Class, Chester County Library, and Senior Citizens Center. KCCB received a Cigarette Litter Prevention Campaign grant that promotes cigarette litter prevention in the community. The goal of the program is to use the “Your Butt is Bigger Than You Think” slogan to make residents aware of cigarette butts and how they affect the environment when you throw the cigarette butts on the ground. A billboard is used to advertise to more than 17,000 residents the harmful effects of cigarette butts on the environment. Ash receptacles were given out to businesses and gas stations along with car litter bags in the county to decrease litter of cigarette butts.
In March, KCCB and the Hub held a Trashercise clean up event. High school students participated in the Keep Chester County Beautiful Trashercise litter event and exercised, then picked up litter off Talley Store Road and found bottles, cans, cigarette butts, plastic totes, tires, and other trash that is harmful to our environment, animals, farmers crops, and waterways. The event raised awareness about litter prevention, taught students about behavioral change, and environmental issues like how litter affects crops, waterways, causes wrecks, and affects wildlife. Keep Tennessee Beautiful sponsored the event and the Chester County Mayor’s Office, Chester County High School students, and Chester County Sheriff’s Department were partners in the Trashercise event. Chester County Mayor, Barry Hutcherson, says “Litter prevention in our county is important by keeping the roads litter free because litter effects our whole community and has a negative impact on crops, water ways, drainage ditches, roads, etc. I enjoy working alongside students to pick litter up off of roadways.”
KCCB along with the City of Henderson Police Department hosted a litter prevention tarp event in May to help reduce the amount of roadside litter and debris. The program focuses on residents and small business owners who use their personal vehicles for hauling trash. This annual event is to reduce the amount of roadside litter and debris. Convenience centers are the most littered places in most communities and by focusing on the Tarp Your Load law and giving out free tarps, this helps residents understand why there is a need to tarp loads of trash. If residents tarp their loads of trash, this protects the community from littered roadways. This event is sponsored by TDOT or KTNB yearly.
KCCB, along with the Hub, has also written a book called Binny Helps the Animals to help students understand the importance of litter prevention and has given out more than 500 copies out to elementary and preschool students in Chester County and surrounding counties. Binny Helps the Animals was printed on waterproof signs and taken to the city park walking trails so residents could read the book while walking and learn about litter prevention. There are over 500 people a month who see the book while walking on the trails at the parks. The story book was also put on the courthouse lawn during Earth Day for residents to read as they entered the building. Binny the Recycling Bin also makes an appearance and takes pictures with students after the book is read to groups at schools. The goal of the book is to bring awareness to students about litter, and how litter affects animals, crops, and waterways. Tammy Marr, Education Coordinator, says, “I enjoy working with the community and students on environmental projects, and love teaching students and residents the importance of their environment.”
Other Recycle Programs
Other programs hosted at the Hub, include a recycled Christmas Ornament contest, Christmas Train parade float made from 100 percent recycling materials, Recycling with Binny book, poster board contest, Litter Prevention Tarp Giveaway events, Story Book Trails, No Trash November, Recycled Valentines Cards, Great American Clean-ups, and Field Trip tours to the classroom.
The Recycled Ornament contest is held every November with schools to help encourage students to reuse recycled materials to make an ornament for the courthouse Christmas tree on display to the public. More than 100 students participate in this program every year to learn how to reuse materials. Every year, the local homeschool groups attend the Recycled Valentines Card program and reuse materials like office folders, newspapers, and magazines to make their recycled valentines cards. The program focuses on teaching students how to reuse materials and turn them into new things. The recycled cards are taken to the local Senior Citizens Center and Assisted Living Retirement Homes and passed out to residents every year on Valentines Day to spread cheer.
Awards and Honors
Keep Tennessee Beautiful and Tennessee Department of Transportation’s Nobody Trashes Tennessee has recently honored Keep Chester County Beautiful with two awards at the 40th Annual Biennial Keep Tennessee Beautiful Conference. KCCB received first place for the Litter Grant Education Program, and second place for the Public Education Award, for a total of $8,000 in funding. The money received will go to the education and outreach program for Keep Chester County Beautiful and the West Tennessee Regional Recycling Hub. TDOT recently recognized 17 winners of the Keep Tennessee Beautiful Awards of Excellence Grant Competition, presenting a total of $54,000 in grants to environmental leaders across the state.
The winners were announced during the TDOT/KTnB Biennial Conference, held in Chattanooga Sept. 27 – 28 and celebrating the 40th Anniversary of Keep Tennessee Beautiful. KTnB Executive Director Missy Marshall hosted the conference with the theme “Honoring the Past, Celebrating the Progress, and Building the Future.” Michael McClanahan, TDOT Transportation Manager of the Highway Beautification Office, was on hand to help present the awards. “This was a milestone year for Keep Tennessee Beautiful, as we celebrated 40 years of serving Tennessee and helping educate and inspire our citizens daily to improve and beautify their communities,” Marshall said. “We are grateful to TDOT for their generous participation in KTnB’s Awards of Excellence Grant Competition. These environmental leaders work tirelessly to help keep our state clean with litter cleanup and education and prevention initiatives statewide. They truly are making a difference.”
The Executive Director of KCCB and Recycling Hub Director, Amber Greene, and Education Coordinator, Tammy Marr, also did a presentation on the West TN Regional Recycling Hub and how it is a part of the critical infrastructure in West Tennessee for rural communities to recycle. Greene said, “Congratulations to TDOT and KTNB on 40 years of educating the great State of Tennessee on litter prevention. I am excited for KCCB to receive two awards that shows the hard work of our team of employees and the education program at the Recycling Hub in Chester County, TN.”
Visit KeepTNBeautiful.org for the full list of grant recipients.
The WTRRH works with the local Sherriff’s department to use inmate labor to work inside the Recycling Hub and on the sort line. The inmates learn necessary skills to operate equipment like balers, compactors, skid loaders, and forklift training, so when they are released, they can have the skills needed to get a job. When inmates work outside of the jail, they shorten their time in jail. The inmates working at the Hub also get educated on what recycling is accepted to be able to help run the single-stream sort line. Duane Edgin, Foreman at the Hub says, “I enjoy working with and teaching inmates how to operate equipment. It helps them learn skills needed to get a job after they get out of jail because they are life skills needed for this state’s future workforce.”
KCCB, The West TN Regional Recycling Hub, and Chester County Solid Waste are very fortunate to have grant funding for the education and outreach programs that they host every year and are very thankful for our partnerships in the State of Tennessee and the community. Employees at the Hub and KCCB, along with the Education Coordinator, help with the programs by wearing Binny the Recycling Bin and working events to help make the programs very successful.
“The Hub and KCCB education programs are successful because of the common goal of working together with partnership organizations who are passionate about environmental education,” says Greene. “We are very appreciative of the partnerships, organizations, and communities that make our programs successful.” | WA
For more information, visit www.chestercountytn.org/recycling.