In honor of America Recycles Day, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) announces the winners of the 2023 Wisconsin Recycling Excellence Awards. The 2023 award winners formed partnerships, engaged community members and implemented systems and equipment to achieve their waste reduction and recycling goals. Their efforts resulted in many tons of materials diverted from the landfill, cost-savings for residents, businesses and communities as well as increased access to donation, recycling and disposal services.
Ashley Furniture (Trempealeau)
Ashley Furniture’s commitment to being a sustainable company includes limiting waste while also reusing and recycling as much as possible at their manufacturing facilities throughout the country. They developed a company-wide tracking program for their recycling and waste management efforts which tracks cardboard, plastics, metals, wood by-products, polystyrene, polyurethane foam, electronics and more. In 2022, their Wisconsin facilities recycled 33,645 tons of materials and over 92,500 tons were recycled nationwide.
Cortec Coated Products (Eau Claire)
Cortec Coated Products, a manufacturer of coated specialty paper, board and films for the printing and packaging industry, is pursuing sustainable and eco-friendly practices. They specialize in applying a special liquid to paper that prevents corrosion and allows the paper to remain recyclable and safe for the environment. Cortec has been collecting and recycling their scrap paper to optimize their management of paper waste. Since this recycling tracking initiative started in 2017, Cortec has recycled a total of 616 tons of paper, which is equivalent to 12,320 trees left untouched.
Town Of Calumet (Fond du Lac)
The town of Calumet operates a drop-off center for waste, recyclables, brush and scrap metal. However, they recognized an unmet need in the community for the appropriate, affordable recycling of electronics. They partnered with COM2, an electronics recycler, to provide this service at no cost to the town. Materials accepted include computers, monitors, TVs, stereo equipment, small appliances (including vacuum cleaners), cell phones/telephones, microwave ovens and electric motors. Reception from residents has been enthusiastic with more than 1.4 tons collected in the first three months of operation.
Eau Claire County
Eau Claire County prides itself on providing an accessible and expansive recycling program for its residents while leveraging partnerships with community organizations and businesses. In addition to operating a traditional curbside program and rural recycling sites, the county has added specialty recycling opportunities for residents. In 2022, the county partnered with First Choice Computer Recycling for free electronics and batteries collection year-round, collecting over 620,000 pounds.
The county also partnered with 7 Rivers Recycling, Kersten Family Junk Removal and No Boundaries Tiny Homes to offer an affordable mattress recycling option, which diverted 220 mattresses from going to a landfill. They received a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to tackle food waste, have sold over 300 home composting bins and worked with a local composter to increase school and business composting.
The county also partners with local recyclers, community organizations and businesses to provide robust recycling, composting and waste reduction education. In 2023, an Earth Week Open House hosted by a local brewery had more than 30 vendors attend to promote their sustainable businesses and organizations to over 200 attendees.
Elm Grove Green Team (Waukesha)
Several Elm Grove residents formed the Elm Grove Green Team in 2019. The team focuses on educational programs, improved homeowner engagement and partnerships with businesses. In 2023, the team started its Trash Reduction Initiative to increase landfill diversion. Working with Johns Disposal, they did a trash sort and audit, sorting 1,340 pounds of trash into various material categories. The audit revealed that nearly 50% of material could have been diverted, including yard waste, recyclables, clothing, plastic bags and food waste. They share this impactful data with Elm Grove residents in ongoing educational programs encouraging proper recycling and increased composting. Promotion has included TV and print media, social media, displays and more.
Town Of Frankfort (Marathon)
The town of Frankfort wanted to expand beyond the average recycling and waste services and is now providing an important service for their residents. The town holds an annual “Tire Day” on the fourth Saturday in September. Working with Bee Line Tire Recycling, the event provides tire recycling for a small fee, which is substantially less than other outlets. This simple act allows residents to have a reliable recycling opportunity they can count on and prevents illegal burning and dumping in ditches, rivers, forests and along roadways. The response has been so enthusiastic that the town is working to expand to include a spring event and additional materials, including appliances and electronics.
Habitat For Humanity Of The Greater La Crosse Region
Since 2018, the ReClaim Program at Habitat for Humanity of the Greater La Crosse Region has offered free salvage and deconstruction services to property owners. ReClaim crews carefully remove materials from buildings that are about to be demolished or renovated. Materials collected from ReClaim projects are sold at the Habitat ReStore or used in Habitat’s home construction projects. This model saves property owners money on dumpsters and disposal fees and disrupts the traditional make-take-dispose approach. Since it began in 2022, an estimated 312,467 pounds of building materials, appliances and furnishings have been diverted. Not only does ReClaim save this material from the landfill, but salvaged items are sold to community members at discounted prices. Finally, the sale of ReClaim items at the ReStore directly supports Habitat’s work of building and rehabbing affordable homes for local families.
Town Of Mentor (Clark)
A few years ago, concerned residents voiced their wish for the town of Mentor to hold collection events for hard-to-get-rid-of items. Following that town hall meeting, an annual Cleanup Day was started as a designated day when residents could dispose of old appliances, mattresses, furniture, tires and other unwanted or hard-to-get-rid-of items. Held in August this year, residents came out with a line of trucks and trailers even before the event started at 9 a.m., so town workers began the event early. Two 30-ton dumpsters were quickly filled and required a third for overflow. The event collected over three tons of electronics and appliances, 40 tons of mixed metal and 114 tires.
Pellitteri Waste Systems (Dane)
After implementing the first single-stream materials recovery recycling facility in south-central Wisconsin in 2012, Pellitteri Waste Systems set a goal to decrease the amount of non-recyclable items coming into the recycling facility and increase the recyclables it can accept. To accomplish this, the company launched a recycling education initiative and invested in new technology. Their recent education initiative included a seven-minute video of the facility operations, a series of short (one-minute) recycling tip videos, multilingual recycling education, social media and a Recycle Right mobile app. The amount of non-recyclable material received decreased by 24% after the first year and an additional 8% in 2022. Using technological innovations, Pellitteri was able to expand the materials that can be recycled. Some of the unique materials now accepted include paper cups, aluminum foil, small metal appliances and shredded paper.
Richardson Resale Store (Sheboygan)
Since 2019, the Richardson Resale Store has been seeking ways to minimize their waste footprint within the community. An arm of Sharon S. Richardson Community Hospice, Richardson Resale Store models reduce, reuse or recycle by accepting donations of gifts and belongings from persons who have been given “end of life care” through their hospice agency. Some donations are sold to fund patient care, outreach and education programs. If items arrive dirty or broken, volunteers wash and attempt to repair them to save them from the landfill. Richardson Resale has partnered with other entities to identify alternatives for items not easily resold. Some of the items diverted from landfills include fabric, paper and plastic shopping bags, bubble wrap, unsellable apparel, broken glassware/pottery, metal and wood products and more.
Winter School District/Project Northwood (Sawyer)
Winter School District is a small, rural school with grades 4K-12 in the same building. Project Northwoods partners with the Winter School District to teach conservation and recycling to district students and the community. During the 2022-2023 school year and continuing for the 2023-2024 school year, students participating in the district’s school lunch program have saved fruits and vegetables to feed the high school science animals. The material was weighed and recorded daily, and over 30 pounds of food waste has been diverted since August 2023. This initiative has not only diverted food waste from the landfill and aided in feeding the classroom animals, but it is also teaching students to think about whether they will eat the food they take and what happens to it when they don’t eat it.
Congratulations to the 2023 Recycling Excellence Awards winners.