DNR celebrates Wisconsin Recycling Excellence Award winners on American Recycle Day

Madison, Wisconsin. – In honor of American Recycling Day, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) announces the winners of the 2023 Wisconsin Recycling Excellence Awards.

The 2023 award winners have formed partnerships, engaged community members, and implemented systems and equipment to achieve their waste reduction and recycling goals. Their efforts have resulted in the diversion of many tons of material from landfill, cost savings for residents, businesses and communities, as well as increased access to donation, recycling and disposal services.

Ashley Furniture (Trembelleau)

Ashley Furniture’s commitment to being a sustainable company includes reducing waste while reusing and recycling as much as possible at its manufacturing facilities across the country. They have developed a company-wide tracking program for their recycling and waste management efforts that tracks cardboard, plastics, metals, wood byproducts, polystyrene, polyurethane foam, electronics, and more. In 2022, its Wisconsin facilities recycled 33,645 tons of materials and more than 92,500 tons were recycled nationwide.

Cortec Coated Products (Eau Claire)

Cortec Coated Products, a manufacturer of specialty coated paper, boards and films for the printing and packaging industry, strives to follow sustainable and environmentally friendly practices. They specialize in applying a special liquid to paper that prevents corrosion and allows the paper to remain recyclable and safe for the environment. Cortec collects and recycles scrap paper to improve its paper waste management. Since this recycling tracking initiative began in 2017, Cortec has recycled a total of 616 tons of paper, the equivalent of 12,320 untouched trees.

Calumet Township (Fond du Lac)

Calumet City operates a drop-off center for waste, recyclables, brush and scrap metal. However, they recognized an unmet need in the community for convenient and affordable electronics recycling. They have partnered with COM2, an electronics recycling company, to provide this service at no cost to the city. Acceptable items include computers, monitors, televisions, stereo equipment, small appliances (including vacuum cleaners), cell phones/telephones, microwave ovens and electric motors. The reception from residents was enthusiastic, with more than 1.4 tons collected in the first three months of operation.

Eau Claire County

Eau Claire County is proud to provide an expanded, accessible recycling program to its residents while leveraging partnerships with community organizations and businesses. In addition to operating a traditional curbside program and rural recycling sites, the county has added specialized recycling opportunities for residents. In 2022, the county partnered with First Choice Computer Recycling to collect free electronics and batteries throughout the year, raising more than £620,000.

The county also partnered with 7 Rivers Recycling, Kersten Family Junk Removal and No Boundaries Tiny Homes to offer an affordable mattress recycling option, diverting 220 mattresses from going to a landfill. They received a USDA grant to address food waste, sold more than 300 home composting bins and worked with a local composter to increase composting in schools and businesses.

The District also partners with local recyclers, community organizations and businesses to provide robust education about recycling, composting and waste reduction. In 2023, an Earth Week Open House hosted by a local brewery saw over 30 vendors in attendance promoting their sustainable businesses and organizations to over 200 attendees.

Elm Grove Green (Waukesha) Team

Several Elm Grove residents formed the Elm Grove Green Team in 2019. The team focuses on educational programs, improving homeowner engagement, and partnerships with businesses. In 2023, the team began its waste reduction initiative to increase landfill diversion. Working with Johns Disposal, they sorted and audited the trash, sorting 1,340 pounds of trash into different material categories. The audit revealed that nearly 50% of the materials could have been diverted, including yard waste, recyclables, clothing, plastic bags and food waste. They share this poignant data with Elm Grove residents in ongoing educational programs that encourage proper recycling and increased composting. Promotion included TV, print, social media, screens and more.

Frankfurt city (marathon)

The City of Frankfurt wanted to expand beyond just recycling and waste services, and now it provides an important service to its residents. The city holds its annual “Tire Day” on the fourth Saturday in September. Working with Bee Line Tire Recycling, the event offers tire recycling for a small fee, which is much lower than other outlets. This simple measure gives residents a reliable recycling opportunity they can rely on and prevents illegal burning and dumping of waste in ditches, rivers, forests and along roads. The response has been so enthusiastic that the city is working to expand to include a spring event and additional items, including appliances and electronics.

Habitat for Humanity of Greater La Crosse

Since 2018, Habitat for Humanity’s ReClaim program in Greater La Crosse has provided free salvage and decommissioning services to property owners. ReClaim crews carefully remove materials from buildings about to be demolished or renovated. Materials collected from ReClaim projects are sold in the Habitat ReStore or used in Habitat home building projects. This model saves property owners money on trash containers and disposal fees, and also disrupts the traditional approach to waste disposal. Since it began in 2022, an estimated 312,467 pounds of building materials, appliances and furnishings have been diverted. Not only does ReClaim save these materials from the landfill, but the salvaged items are sold to community members at discounted prices. Finally, the sale of ReClaim items in the ReStore directly supports Habitat’s work building and rehabilitating affordable homes for local families.

Mentor Township (Clark)

A few years ago, concerned residents expressed a desire for the City of Mentor to hold events to collect hard-to-dispose items. After that City Council meeting, Annual Clean Up Day began as a designated day where residents could get rid of old appliances, mattresses, furniture, tires and other unwanted or hard-to-get rid of items. This August, residents turned out in a line of trucks and trailers even before the event started at 9 a.m., so city workers got the event started early. Two 30-ton dumpsters were filled quickly and a third overflow was required. The event collected more than three tons of electronics and appliances, 40 tons of mixed metals, and 114 tires.

Pelletier Waste Systems (Danish)

After implementing the first single-stream material recovery and recycling facility in south-central Wisconsin in 2012, Pellitteri Waste Systems set a goal to reduce the amount of non-recyclable items coming into a recycling facility and increase the recyclables it can accept. To achieve this, the company launched an education initiative on recycling and invested in new technology. Their latest educational initiative included a seven-minute video of facility operations, a series of short (one-minute) videos of recycling tips, multilingual recycling education, social media, and the Recycle Right mobile app. The amount of non-recyclable materials received decreased by 24% after the first year and by an additional 8% in 2022. Using technological innovations, Pelletieri has been able to expand the materials that can be recycled. Some unique materials that are now accepted include paper cups, aluminum foil, small metal appliances, and shredded paper.

richardson resale store sheboygan

Since 2019, Richardson Resale Store has been looking for ways to reduce its waste footprint within the community. An affiliate of Sharon S. Richardson Community Hospice, the Richardson Resale Store models reduce, reuse or recycle by accepting donations of gifts and possessions from people who have received “end of life care” through their hospice agency. Some donations are sold to fund patient care, outreach and education programs. If items arrive dirty or broken, volunteers wash them and attempt to repair them to save them from the landfill. Richardson Resale has partnered with other entities to identify replacements for items that cannot be easily resold. Some of the items diverted from landfills include cloth, paper and plastic shopping bags, bubble wrap, unsaleable clothing, broken glass/pottery, metal and wood products and more.

Winter School District/Northwood Project (Sawyer)

The Winter School District is a small rural school that houses grades 4K-12 in the same building. The Northwoods Project partners with the Winter School District to teach conservation and recycling to area students and the community. During the 2022-2023 school year and continuing with the 2023-2024 school year, students participating in the district’s school lunch program preserved fruits and vegetables to feed the high school’s science animals. Items have been weighed and recorded daily, and over 30 pounds of food waste has been diverted since August 2023. Not only has this initiative diverted food waste from a landfill and helped feed classroom animals, but it also teaches students to think about whether and what they will eat the food they eat. It happens to him when they don’t eat it.

Congratulations to the 2023 Recycling Excellence Awards winners. View their full profiles and learn what advice the winners have for others looking to start or improve their waste reduction and recycling efforts on the Wisconsin Recycling Excellence Awards webpage.

For more information about recycling in Wisconsin, visit the DNR’s What to Recycle in Wisconsin webpage.

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