The Cooperative Teamwork & Recycling Assistance Creates Community Recycling Programs

Rachel Perry, Executive Director for the CTRA, discusses the importance of the organization and what it’s done for communities looking to build a recycling program.

What is the CTRA and how did the organization form?

The Cooperative Teamwork & Recycling Assistance (CTRA) is a result of a solid waste feasibility study performed in central Texas in 1994. The results suggested that this area of the State had limited rural recycling options, and this was a service that many communities were interested in. CTRA was formed to help these communities combine their resources to provide vendors with a higher quality and a higher volume of product, therefore making their recyclables more valuable.

What is its mission/goals/purpose?

CTRA is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization based on the concept of cooperative marketing of recyclable commodities. The goals of CTRA include promoting the development of end markets for recyclables and furthering public education about recycling.

How does one/company become a member of the organization?

The most common way for an organization/community to become involved with CTRA is to simply reach out to us. From there, we start a series of meetings and visits about what will be required of them to start a program with CTRA. Each community CTRA works with is unique, there is no cookie-cutter plan. CTRA would like to ensure that all parties involved understand what is required to make the program a success, before we commit to a contract.

Why is this an important organization to be part of?

In the past 15 years, CTRA members have been able to offer recycling services to more than 1.5 million citizens throughout the state who might not otherwise have a chance to recycle due to their geographic location. The growth of rural recycling has helped create job opportunities, and increased recycling awareness and need. CTRA helps create an organized network of rural communities to share resources, knowledge, transportation costs, equipment, etc. Whenever a new CTRA member starts the process we connect them with a similar community in size and demographics to discuss what works and what doesn’t, and give them an advantage. This puts them ahead of the game because they can learn from a program that is currently successful and has made mistakes in the past, this prevents the new program from repeating the same mistakes. We believe one of the most important educational components of this network is learning from each other.

How does this organization help communities with recycling?

CTRA can assist in a community recycling program in several capacities but the most common is a community that has absolutely no recycling program and we work with them to get it started from the ground up (literally). We assist with every aspect necessary, acquiring a facility, equipment, grants etc. We work with staff to get them properly trained on equipment and ensure their product is up to mill standards. Procedures, management, education, transportation arrangements and reporting are all part of our services to our customers.

Are there any particular recycling trends you’ve seen in the communities that you’ve helped or plan to help?

Currently, Texas is in the middle of a horrific drought where almost the entire state is under a burn-ban. As a result we have seen increased volumes of paper and cardboard that most folks would normally burn. We hope that even when this ban is lifted, people will continue to use the recycle center, rather than go back to burning.

Cardboard is by far the most prominent material seen at CTRA centers. This is definitely driven by area businesses that realize they can save some money on their trash pulls if they divert the cardboard to the recycle center; it’s a win-win for everyone.

Does the CTRA actively promote recycling? If so, how?

It is within our scope of service to provide education and marketing on general recycling knowledge, to how to recycle within each specific community. We try to do as many presentations to civic groups, schools, and businesses as we can to spread the word about recycling, and help ensure that the quality of recyclables going to the recycle centers are worthy of any mill. We provide educational materials that cover a variety of topics; basic recycling education, specific information on that community’s recycling program, how to recycle in the office/home, hard to recycle items, HHW, electronics recycling, etc. CTRA truly believes that education is a key factor in making any program a success.

For more information, contact Rachel Perry, Executive Director, at [email protected]