This year, Re-TRAC Connect took the helm as the exclusive sponsor for the 2022 Program of the Year Awards. Created by Resource Recycling last year, the awards are designed to highlight cities and counties that are taking innovative steps to recover more material, engage with residents on sustainability, demonstrate excellence in program measurement, and make critical progress in other ways.
The application process started in May and ended on a positive note with dozens of applications received from all over the United States. Two winners were selected from each resident category (less than 150,000 residents and more than 150,000 residents). A panel of experts reviewed each application and on August 3rd the winners were announced. Congratulations to Fayetteville, AR and Washington D.C, the program of the year title holders for 2022! The race was close, as these two community programs shared the finalist round with four others.
In the end, the creativity, innovation, and performance of these communities propelled them to achieve this year’s honour. Speaking at the announcement webinar, each community was given the opportunity to share details about their programs and what was being done to garner success.
Ran by the District of Columbia’s Department of Public Works (DC DPW), the city of Washington has made significant strides in working towards achieving its zero waste goals. Tapping into the department’s creative resources, the team at DC DPW put in the groundwork and investment necessary to decrease contamination rates and reduce subsequent costs as increases became evident during the pandemic. According to Blake Adams, Manager of DPW’s Office of Waste Diversion, they actively sought to “go after” the rates and costs through a phased campaign. The two-phase campaign included community outreach and tagging strategies. The campaign proved successful as the city reduced its contamination rate from 33% to 11%. Blake rounded up the overall success of the city’s recycling program to the “leveling up” of the tagging program to a more digital data-focused approach, as well as their “Feet on the Street” initiative, which was only possible through the creativity, educational resources, and outreach by the sustainability team within the department. This community awareness, participation, and enforcement are demonstrated by the almost 60% recycling rate and 34,000 tons of recyclables collected annually.
To learn more about the progress the city is making view their interactive StoryMap here.
Small but mighty, Fayetteville’s program is an inspiration for smaller communities trying to achieve their own recycling goals. With an ambitious goal of 40% waste diversion from landfills by 2027, the city has undertaken an all-hands-on-deck approach to increasing recycling volume and keeping contamination low. Incorporating free education programs such as presentations, facility tours, and sharing waste diversion goals in the news and social media, the city has seen a recycling rate of 19% and a contamination rate of less than 2%. This city takes its job very seriously, utilizing drivers for sorting at the curbside and leaving behind any recyclables containing contaminants. A thorough comb-through is done again in the recycling centre as attendants pull contaminants from source-separated containers. Maintaining transparency has also been vital to keeping residents informed. The city’s Solid Waste Reduction, Diversion, and Recycling Master Plan has allowed the city to change the game, designing “battleships” for apartment buildings and a “whoops” tagging system to encourage and educate residents. According to Taylor Gladwin and Heather Ellzey, Environmental educators for the Trash & Recycling Department, the team works hard at every step of the process and the department will be employing new programs to offer residents that will help the city achieve its waste diversion goal.
Want to read more about Fayetteville’s efforts? Check out the city’s transparency website here.
This won’t be the last time we hear about the Program of the Year winners, our winners will be honoured at Resource Recycling’s in-person conference in Austin, TX from August 15-17. The conference is sold out, but video footage of select sessions will be available after the close of the conference. Check the website for more information.