Recycling innovation and partnership are themes of this year’s America Recycles Day®, a Keep America Beautiful® national program that takes place each year on and around November 15. Local organizations, including the Keep America Beautiful national network of more than 600 community-based affiliates, governmental institutions, schools, businesses, faith-based organizations, and other community partners, schedule educational workshops and recycling collection events in communities throughout November in celebration of America Recycles Day.
“America Recycles Day educates people about the importance of recycling to our economy and environmental well-being and helps to motivate occasional recyclers to become everyday recyclers,” says Keep America Beautiful President & CEO, Helen Lowman. “This national initiative also highlights how we can be more mindful about using or purchasing products made with recycled content and to do all we can to reduce contamination in the recycling stream.”
Sponsors of America Recycles Day in 2019 include Title Sponsor Cox Enterprises, as well as American Forest & Paper Association (AF&PA), Coors Light, Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI), International Bottled Water Association (IBWA), Macerich, Mars Wrigley Confectionery, Northrop Grumman Corporation, The Recycling Partnership (TRP), and Waste Management.
This week (November 11-15, 2019), Keep America Beautiful, in concert with the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), has conducted a series of initiatives — highlighting how all Americans from the business community to our armed services are banding together to recycle more and recycle right.
Today, the first-ever America Recycles Innovation Fair in Washington, DC is taking place with a focus on recent advances in recycling technology, product development, and materials usage. The event is hosted by the EPA, in partnership with Keep America Beautiful, the Institute for Scrap Recycling Industries, the Solid Waste Association of North America, and The Recycling Partnership.
Exhibitors at today’s Innovation Fair are showcasing new recyclable products, goods made from recycled content, innovative education, and communication methods or materials that promote more effective recycling. This event aims to connect the public as well as potential investors with recycling innovators, thereby spurring market development and adoption of new technologies that increase recycling rates as well as create new products comprised of post-recycled content.
Meanwhile, Keep America Beautiful and America Recycles Day National Sponsors are hosting a America Recycles Day Reception at the Reagan Building in Washington DC. This is an opportunity to network with government officials and recycling professionals.
Fort Bliss Recognized For Recycling
On Monday, November 11, Keep America Beautiful participated in a ceremony at Fort Bliss in El Paso, TX to honor the inaugural American Recycles Day Recycling Heroes and recognize the Fort Bliss Recycling Heroes for commitment to recycling. Fort Bliss was selected as a pilot Net Zero Waste installation, which considers the waste stream when purchasing items, reducing the volume of packaging, reusing as much as possible, and recycling the rest. The Net Zero Program is demonstrating an over a 50% waste diversion rate.
Keep America Beautiful’s Lowman presented the America Recycles Day Recycling Award to Terri Smythe, recycling project manager, Fort Bliss, as a new component of future America Recycles Day celebrations. The goal is to have the Fort Bliss Recycle Heroes program adopted by other U.S. Department of Defense facilities to promote and enhance Net Zero Waste initiatives and promote recycling throughout these facilities.
During the program, the base recognized its 38 Recycling Heroes, with a special presentation recognizing Sgt. 1st Class George J. Johnson of the 5th Armored Brigade with an America Recycles Day Recycling Award. SFC Johnson proactively reached out to the Fort Bliss Recycling Program to make sure that his unit was compliant with the base’s recycling policy. Initially, he scheduled training for his unit, which then led to building assessments, and eventually the relocation of recycling bins to make them more accessible for his unit.
“Heroic acts are not so easily seen or acknowledged when they are everyday acts that benefit the greater good,” said Lowman. “We are so pleased to acknowledge these everyday acts, taken by the Fort Bliss Recycling Heroes. This campaign is a perfect example of rewarding good stewardship behavior by recognizing Fort Bliss for pursuing a Net Zero Waste future.”
One way the post helps identify recycling heroes is through their “Grand Challenge,” a monthly recycling competition modeled after incentivized programs at other Army installations.
The Grand Challenge invites units to monitor their own day-to-day recycling and waste habits. Each quarter the top unit is selected to receive $3,000 and named the Grand Challenge winner. The winner is chosen based upon bi-weekly inspections, which award points for how well each unit is following the recycling program guidelines and sorting waste. Winning is not based on how much is recycled but based on recycling correctly.
“Today is a special time for our Recycling Heroes,” said Smythe. “Keep America Beautiful and EPA have come together to recognize the hard work of our soldiers – not only for what they do every day, but also for those who take that extra step to make recycling part of our mission readiness at Fort Bliss.”
Fort Bliss, which launched the Recycling Heroes campaign in 2012, reached a more than 50% diversion rate in 2018. All profits from the recycling program are used to benefit the Fort Bliss community through its Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) Program. The post uses the funds to resurface playgrounds, purchase exercise equipment, and improve the quality of life for everyone on base. Since the program began, a total of $4 million has been awarded through the MWR Program.
Fort Bliss was selected as a pilot installation to reach Net Zero Waste by 2020. The Net Zero Waste goal requires considering the waste stream when purchasing items, reducing the volume of packaging, reusing as much as possible, and recycling the rest.