OLYMPIA -- The Thurston County Solid Waste Education and Outreach staff has received special recognition from the Washington State Recycling Association. The educators received the 2007 Recycler of the Year award for public agencies at a recent statewide conference. This category included all federal, state, county, city and tribal agencies in Washington .
In 2007, Thurston County Solid Waste developed new programs, refined existing ones, and created a successful community based outreach strategy. The result has been an explosion in program participation and removal of tons of recyclable and compostable materials from the waste stream.
The many new approaches utilized to reach the public were key to the success of the programs. An important bonus is that the majority were low cost or no-cost! Some of the most effective methods were:
- Using an excellent relationship with the Olympian newspaper for a beneficial column on recycling, composting and proper disposal of various items.
- Utilizing monthly utility billing inserts and student take-home flyers to reach almost every household in the county for pennies a piece.
- Expanding the biannual "Talkin' Trash" newsletter, received by every County resident, from 4 pages and two-colors to 8 pages and full color. Response from the public was overwhelmingly positive and readers now send their own waste reduction tips and suggestions for articles.
- Creating an email list of 1,840 community based contacts. These individuals utilize the information through newspapers, radio, newsletters, businesses, homeowners associations, blogs, schools, community and church groups, and public agencies. They also forward the information on to others within the community, creating a snowball affect.
- Participating in various community events (Home and Garden Show, County Fair, etc.)
- Providing updated school presentations and technical assistance.
Staff was also very active in establishing and implementing new diversion programs. They implemented a new commingled curbside recycling program resulting in a 40% increase in residential recycling with a contamination rate of only 2%. Curbside recycling is now available countywide. Multifamily recycling was initiated to provide residents with on-site access. Educational and promotional materials were distributed to all multi-family residents, owners and managers to encourage participation. That program is in conjunction with LeMay Enterprises, who is also working with the county on commercial food waste reduction, which is 18% of the waste stream.
In addition to the above named activities, a pilot program, called Food to Flowers, diverted 75% of cafeteria waste at three elementary schools. The schools received Earth Tubs, training, sort line set-up, signage, assemblies, classroom presentations and curriculum. The model will be used this year for schools utilizing the food waste collection program.
The educators did not forget about their own surroundings. The County adopted a new Sustainability Policy in 2007. Written by staff, it will allow the county to demonstrate sustainable behavior change for businesses and residents. A brochure, intranet site, new employee orientation presentation, and a Green Team work group was created to educate staff about waste reduction, recycling, environmentally preferable purchasing and other sustainability practices. Waste reduction and recycling was the first year focus, with the following highlights:
- Three of the largest county buildings generated 11,000 pounds less garbage
- Several new recycle streams were added, including collection of 122 pounds of batteries and 600 pounds of "Technotrash".
- A food waste collection trial at the county jail kitchen demonstrated diversion potential of 6,000 pounds of organics per month for a savings of $6,000 per year on disposal costs.
- The county also Joined Environmental Protection Agency's Wastewise program.
For more information on recycling, composting and sustainability programs, please visit the Water and Waste Management web pages at http://www.co.thurston.wa.us/wwm/