By BECKY GILLETTE
Recycling makes good sense to protect the environment and reduce waste disposal costs whether at a small city, a county or one of the largest manufacturers in the state. The Mississippi Recycling Coalition (MRC) recently presented the 2016 Environmental Hero Awards as Recyclers of the Year to five organizations in the state including the City of Morton, Panola County, Toyota Blue Springs, the Tupelo Middle School and the Columbus Air Force Base.
“The nominees are evaluated based on the success of their recycling efforts including promotion and outreach, the duration and extent of their recycling program, their overall environmental stewardship, and the manner in which recycling has improved community waste handling and environmental practices,” said Jennifer Milner, state recycling coordinator for the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ).
Toyota Blue Springs is the recipient of the 2016 “Business and Industry Recycler of the Year” Award for the state. The company’s material management programs include the establishment of a reusable packaging system, the reuse of wood pallets, and the recycling of various materials around the plant.
“These recycling efforts include materials generated in the plant from the production line to those generated in the offices and breakroom areas,” Milner said. “The plant also employs three balers onsite to bale cardboard, plastics and office paper. In addition, the plant sets an annual waste reduction target and tracks the overall waste reduction progress to encourage employees to work to achieve this target. Over the past five years, Toyota Blue Springs has recycled almost 50,000 tons of material including used batteries, toner cartridges, electronic wastes, empty containers (metal/poly drums, buckets), production scrap plastics, plastics from packaging, scrap copper, scrap aluminum, cardboard, wood waste and scrap metal.”
John Raymer, general manager of assembly and environmental director at Toyota Mississippi, said receiving the “Business and Industry Recycler of the Year’ was a big win for them.
“Toyota has a strong environmental commitment, and we strive to be the most efficient Toyota assembly plant North America,” Raymer said. “Our plant started production in 2011, and we have implemented an environmental management system targeted at reducing waste since that time. This mindset is part of our core environmental philosophy. Receiving this award shows that our companies hard work and dedication to that philosophy is paying off.”
Morton received the “New Program Recycler of the Year” Award for a recycling program started in 2013. Milner said the program was begun on a trial basis in an effort to gauge the interest of their residents.
“As part of the trial program, paper, cardboard, plastics, and metals were collected at a single drop-off location and plans were set to service the drop-off bin every two months,” Milner said. “Due to growth in popularity among residents, the recycling bins began to reach capacity quickly and the city had to increase the frequency for servicing the bins.
Morton Mayor Greg Butler said residents are becoming more committed all the time to preserving their environment for the future. In addition to the recycling bin behind the fire station, the city received a $15,000 grant from MDEQ to locate recycling bins in the City’s Farris Park where ballgames are held.
“People drink a lot of bottled water and drinks in aluminum cans at Farris Park, so it is working out to have recycling receptacles there,” Butler said.
The 2016 “Local Government Recycler of the Year” award went to Panola County where a recycling program started in 2012 with the first recycling drop-off center located in Batesville.
“Since that time, the program has grown to multiple recycling drop-off locations for county residents including collection sites for waste tires, e-waste and scrap metal,” Milner said. “In addition, the county works with local businesses, government offices, and area schools to develop recycling collection programs. Milner said the amount of cardboard, paper, tires, plastics and metal collected from the various public sites, businesses and school programs as part of the county’s recycling program increased about 58 percent from 2014 to 2016.
The county is working to continue this growth into 2017 with an additional public drop off location and new school recycling programs.
Other local government entities receiving honorable mention for their recycling efforts include the Harrison County Beautification Commission and the Hinds County Sheriff’s Department.
The 2016 “Educational Institution Recycler of the Year” Award went to the Tupelo Middle School Golden Wave Going Green Recycling Club lead by teacher Anthony Golding. In considering options to incorporate service-based learning at the school, Golding determined that starting a school recycling program effort could meet that need. The school applied for and was awarded an MRC School Recycling Grant in the spring of the 2015-2016 school year.
“Upon receiving the award, the school formed the Golden Wave Going Green Recycling Club with Cassie Swoope, the school’s SPED Self-Contained teacher, and her students,” Milner said. “Swoope’s class, many of whom are non-verbal and/or autistic, help collect recyclables from around the school. In addition to assisting these special needs students in learning more about recycling, their involvement with the Recycling Club gives them responsibility and purpose, and provides them the opportunity to interact with the rest of the student body. The participation of Swoope’s class in the Recycling Club has been an overwhelmingly positive experience for the faculty and staff, students, parents and the overall community.”
Other educational institutions receiving honorable mention for their recycling efforts include the Batesville Junior High of the South Panola School District and Mannsdale Elementary of the Madison County School District.
The Columbus Air Force Base was awarded the 2016 “State and Federal Government Recycler of the Year” Award for the state. Milner said in the past 10 years, CAFB has increased waste reduction on the base from 30 to 55 percent through source reduction, reuse of materials where possible, and by incorporating recycling collection and processing at the base. CAFB continues to look for ways to reduce waste further, and has a goal to achieve 60 percent waste reduction by 2020.
The Mississippi Recycling Coalition is a consortium of recycling companies, local governments, state agencies, and other interested organizations. For more information, visit the MRC web page at www.msrecycles.org, or like it one Facebook at www.facebook.com/MSRecycles.
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