“This is something new we are doing,” explains Stephanie Kissinger of Waste Management’s Public Sector Solutions. “We are basing this off of Waste Management Corporate’s sponsorship of the WM Phoenix Open. Last year they really ramped up efforts to have a zero waste event and they diverted 97 percent of [recyclable] materials out of the waste stream. This year they brought it up to 99 percent. So we are, in a way, piggy backing off that idea.”
Local WM has even more incentive to go greener. “Collier County and the state of Florida are under the gun to try and meet the state’s mandate for recycling, which is a goal of 75 percent of all waste to be diverted to recycling,” explains Cyndee Woolley of WM’s Public Relations Sector.
In order to help attain this goal, WM has planned to participate in three large public events within the county to help teach recycling awareness and proper techniques. This year, WM first partnered with the Ace Group Classic Golf Tournament at Twin Eagles. “Our goal was to divert 30,000 pounds of garbage from the landfill,” states Kissinger.
“We managed to take them from zero recycling to 55 percent recycling,” adds Woolley.
WM will also be at the Collier County Fair and Expo, talking trash – and recycling – from March 14th through the 24th. That last weekend will be especially busy as they also take on the Marco Island Seafood Festival on the 23rd and 24th.
“We are so fortunate with the Marco Island Seafood Festival because they already have recycling measures in place. We are really coming in to help refine what they’ve already done,” explains Woolley. WM will be setting up recycling stations with pictorials that, “help remind people of what they should recycle. Sometimes at events like this, people are distracted and they just don’t thinkto recycle. Working with large events is just a great way for us to capture additional recyclables that would otherwise go to the landfill.”
Food vendors will also get a lesson in recycling because they, “have the potential to create the most recyclables. By doing a pre-event orientation with them, we can teach them what local ordinances are in place,” states Woolley.
By diverting large amounts of recycling out of the waste stream, the Collier County landfill will, in turn, have a longer life span. In fact, “in 2007, we reclaimed a couple of cells [in the landfill] and all that material was recyclable,” explains Linda Best of Collier County’s Solid Waste Division. This added an extra 35 acres of landfill space. “Through recycling initiatives and managing the operations of the landfill, we’ve increased its life expectancy to about 2062, and in 2002, it only had two years left.”
Waste Management has a long-term lease with the county to manage the landfill. Workers sort through trash to pull out recyclable material at the landfill and workers also sort through recyclables at Delta Recycling Facility on Shirley Street in Naples, separating out the garbage. This shows WM’s dedication to recycling but also lends large proof that the public is uninformed when it comes to proper recycling.
“My team does education and outreach to the community,” states Best. “We give presentations; we teach in the schools; we are always out and about.” The county has many pamphlets and magnets that it offers free to the public at outreach events.
Even still, the average citizen is usually surprised to learn that things such as polystyrene (styrofoam) or a greasy, cheese covered pizza box are not recyclable. The first step is correctly identifying what can and can’t be recycled. This is Waste Management’s greatest goal during the Marco Island Seafood Festival.
Other little known recycling tips include not tying up your recyclables into a plastic bag. Throw your cans, bottles, newspapers, etc. into your bin completely loose. This saves time as workers at Delta Recycling don’t have to rip the bags open. Another tip – recycle your plastic grocery store bags at the store you got them from. Single plastic bags wreak havoc on conveyor belt systems in the recycling world. Save up yourbags and drop them in the designated area the next time you take a trip to Publix or Winn Dixie. And one more tip – since recyclables need to be relatively clean, they don’t start to rot and stink like garbage. So, if your recycling container isn’t full and you have room to wait another week, then do. This saves time and gas for Waste Management.
But why should you care about making Waste Management’s job easier? Because you will end up saving them money – lots of money – and this will reflect in how much they charge the county to pick up your waste, thus, lowering your taxes and saving the planet at the same time. Talk about a win-win.
“Waste Management has really embraced recycling and it’s such an incredible market.” adds Best. “We (the county) do waste audits to make sure residents are recycling correctly. Then, they can actually reduce their waste stream and get a smaller garbage toter, which saves money in the long run.”
“Recycling is actually a commodity,” explains Woolley. “When we divert plastic bottles and aluminum cans, they are stored to be processed and sold. Some days we make more money than others. But from a commercial standpoint, it’s actually cheaper for businesses to recycle more. We actually have customers saving up to 20 percent off their bill because when they install a single stream recycling collection container (toter) along with their waste container because they end up reducing the size of their waste container. The numbers can be very significant; we’ve had one of our major clients save $44,000 in their annual waste collection bill.”
While the savings in money is extraordinary, the bottom line for Waste Management and the Marco Island Seafood Festival is to be more environmentally conscious. Living on an island, the environment is so important to us,” adds Dianna Dohm, PR Chair for the Seafood Festival. “Anything we can do to educate our islanders is something that is important to us. With the amount of visitors that we have to the Seafood Festival, it just gives us a great opportunity. We are just so fortunate to have Waste Management join us this year.”
To learn more about proper recycling techniques and Waste Management’s green initiative, visit www.thinkgreen.com. Learn more about this year’s Marco Island Seafood Festival at www.marcoislandseafoodfestival.com.