VRA Awards honor waste reduction and recycling programs

VRA Awards honor waste reduction and recycling programs

Recycle Right Alexandria and Page County among the winners.

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November 7, 2019

The Virginia Recycling Association (VRA) honored several waste reduction and recycling programs at its annual luncheon meeting Oct. 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 nine nominations and represented the best of recycling innovation, education and community engagement from across Virginia, according to a VRA news release.

Recycle Right Alexandria, Show Me the Way award winner

Alexandria, Virginia, developed an online, interactive game that teaches children ages seven and up to properly sort their recyclables, yard waste and trash using city services. Players match discarded household items, including paint, food waste and aluminum cans, 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, including a 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 provides the city analytics, including the number of game plays, number of completed games, number of certificates printed and a list of the most misunderstood materials.

The city found that one of the most misunderstood materials that was incorrectly sorted in the game was loose shredded paper. The analytics showed 33 percent 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.

Page County, Lemonade winner

Page County Solid Waste Department took a hard look at its recycling program when recycling markets began to deteriorate in 2018.

The department was spending $34,000 per year to deliver recyclables collected at four county drop-off locations to the nearest material recovery facility (MRF).

In 2018, 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, the county was able to eliminate all transportation and delivery costs.

Since Page County started baling its own cardboard, commingled plastic, mixed paper and aluminum cans, the county increased the amount of materials recycled, reduced costs and increased revenue.   

Goodwill of Central and Coastal Virginia, Best in Show winner

Goodwill, which was paying to have 250,000 pounds of books recycled each month, knew 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.

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, VRA says.