The Virginia Recycling Association honored several exemplary waste reduction and recycling programs at its annual luncheon meeting on October 30, in Charlottesville. Awards were given in three categories:
- Show Me the Way– How do you explain recycling to your customers?
- Lemonade– How have you made something wonderful from a bad situation?
- Best in Show– How has your program made a difference in your community?
This year’s award winners were selected from 9 nominations and represented the best of recycling innovation, education, and community engagement from across Virginia.
Best in Show Winner, Goodwill of Central and Coastal Virginia
Goodwill was paying to have 250,000 pounds of books recycled each month, which was costing them money and seemed wasteful. They knew that there was a better way to process and distribute such a large volume of books and that there was value in the marketplace for these books.
In early 2017, Goodwill established a partnership with Henrico County public schools to supply books to students and families after seeing a news story requesting the donation of new and gently used books to support the school division’s new Reading and Writing Across the Curriculum Challenge in secondary schools.
Henrico County and Goodwill established a weekly opportunity for school personnel to visit the Goodwill headquarters and “dive for books”. School staff sort through thousands of books, selecting those that will be utilized and loved at their schools. Goodwill supplies bins and assistance in loading books into personal vehicles.
These free books are now being enjoyed by students in elementary, middle and high schools; Henrico Book Nooks (free libraries) around the county; and the Department of Family Engagement bus which provides giveaways to neighborhoods and community, civic, and school events.
This free program supplies a reliable source of books to the families in most need and to teachers who have limited budgets for books. As of September 2019, this initiative has placed 148,931 free books into the hands of teachers, librarians, students, and families. This is the best kind of recycling result.
Show Me the Way Award Winner, Recycle Right Alexandra
The City of Alexandria developed an online, interactive game that teaches children ages 7 and up to properly sort their recyclables, yard waste, and trash using City services. Players match discarded household items (paint, food waste, aluminum cans, etc.) with the appropriate City service and build their own digital Alexandria park in the process.
After completing all five levels of the game, players can print out a certificate of achievement. Residents who snapped a picture of themselves with their certificate and shared it on social media were entered into a contest to win items to help them reduce and divert waste (reusable tote bag, reusable water bottle, or a compost caddy).
Implementing this sorting game was also a short-term goal that was identified as part of the City’s newly adopted WasteSmart Strategic Plan. The sorting game also features analytics in the back end, which provide statistics on the number of game plays, number of completed games, number of certificates printed, and a list of the most misunderstood materials. For example, the City found that one of the most misunderstood material that was incorrectly sorted in the game was loose shredded paper. The analytics showed that 33% of players thought this material could be recycled, when in fact, it should go into the trash bin. This type of data helps the City target specific outreach messages on contamination and how residents can Recycle Right in Alexandria.
Lemonade Winner, Page County
The Page County Solid Waste Department had to take a hard look at its recycling program when recycling markets began to deteriorate in 2018.
The Department had been spending $34,000 per year to deliver the recyclables collected at four County drop off locations to the nearest Materials Recovery Facility (MRF), consuming most of the revenue generated by sales of those recyclables.
In 2018, Department staff decided to change the program from a small recycling program with large transportation costs to a large revenue generator with minimal costs. By purchasing and installing a used baler in their maintenance garage, they were able to eliminate all transportation and delivery costs.
Since Page County started baling their own cardboard, co-mingled plastic, mixed paper, and aluminum cans, they have increased the amount of materials recycled, reduced costs and increased revenue.
“The Virginia Recycling Association is proud to shine a spotlight on the imaginative and sustainable recycling and waste reduction programs that Virginia organizations have to offer our communities,” said Teresa Sweeny, President of the VRA. “On behalf of our board, I also want to commend our other nominees for their hard work and determination to make recycling easier to understand and accessible to everyone.”
For more information, visit www.vrarecycles.org.