On a crisp November morning, Alfredo Mendoza and his team open the Waste Management transfer station in Manassas, Virginia, and prepare a welcome tent, stations and directional signs in the parking lot.
C2 sets up an electronics collection and MXI is there to handle the household hazardous waste. By 8 a..m., a line of cars pull in and volunteers help direct traffic and hand out brochures and reusable shopping bags.
Last year, 500 cars came through RecycleFest within four hours, says Monica Boehringer, the visionary behind the event.
The main attraction is Safeguard Shredding’s state-of-the-art mobile shredding truck.
“About half the people that come to RecycleFest are there for shredding,” Boehringer says.
For a decade, Manassas had a monthly household hazardous waste collection at the transfer station, but few people came. Boehringer spiffed up the event by adding vendors, raising money for a local charity, changing the name to RecycleFest and marketing it around America Recycles Day on Nov. 15.
“I thought we need to make something special,” she says. “Why don’t we fix an event to coincide with America Recycles Day, which people recognize, and they get it.”
America Recycles Day, a Keep America Beautiful national initiative, is the only nationally recognized day dedicated to promoting and celebrating recycling.
On the website, a cluster of red pins on an interactive map hover on the east coast from New Hampshire down to Georgia across southern states into Tennessee and Texas into New Mexico and California. The pins represent 2,790 events—a citywide shoe recycling campaign, a marine litter cleanup, a distribution of reusable shopping bags—taking place across the country.
When Boehringer became the refuse and recycling coordinator for Keep Manassas Beautiful, she learned about the challenges material recovery facilities (MRFs) face with contamination. She also knew there was a disconnect between residents and their waste hauler.
"People are confused about what to put on the curb," she says. "In terms of recycling, the important thing for us to do is reduce contamination. An event like this helps to pull a lot of that out of the waste stream and informs residents of what they can do correctly."
When Boehringer approached Mendoza, the Waste Management transfer station manager, to partner on the event, he saw it as an opportunity to connect with customers.
“This event has helped educate the residents of Manassas about what recycling means,” he says. “We try to educate customers to recycle items they would normally throw away."
Mendoza moved to the U.S. 12 years ago. His first job in the U.S. was working for Waste Management.
“It has helped me understand the importance of recycling for future generations,” Mendoza says.
Mendoza says it's important for the waste industry to get involved with events in their community.
“Over the past year, the recycling industry has been challenged to eliminate contamination and recycle good, quality material,” Mendoza says. “Our end markets depend on it and demand it. We must stop contamination at the curb before it enters a material recovery facility.”
For Boehringer, every day is America Recycles Day. She continues to spearhead recycling projects in her town, such as the Project Recycle Runway fashion show and a recycled art competition. She also worked with an advisory council on solid waste to display a Recycling and the Civil War exhibit at The American Recycling Center.
“It gets the residents thinking about recycling in a different way and it just turns into a community event where we’re all going something right,” she says.
Click here for more America Recycles Day events.