For the second time since the program’s official launch in 2007, SLED’s Recycling On the Go (ROG) program has been recognized for its outstanding efforts by MORA – the Missouri Recycling Association. In 2008, ROG received MORA’s Outstanding Achievement for a Community Recycling Program award, and we are thrilled to announce that ROG has been recognized as the 2012 MORA Outstanding Recycling Education Program! St. Louis Earth Day will be recognized at the annual MORA Conference in September for its achievement through Recycling On the Go.
First piloted in 2006, St. Louis Earth Day established the Recycling On the Go program to share the event-greening strategies that we had learned at our own Festival over the years. We received feedback from both Earth Day Festival vendors and visitors that there was a need and desire to reduce the negative environmental impact of events in the St. Louis region — not to mention, a growing interest in sustainability and its consumer appeal. People love events and people are becoming increasingly more interested in opportunities for environmental action — why can’t the both co-exist?
…And Recycling On the Go was born. Since Recycling On the Go, (or ROG, as it’s affectionately called), was fully launched in 2007, approximately 164 tons of materials have been diverted from area landfills. This figure includes organic waste/compost, spent cooking oil, edible food and, of course, recyclables. ROG has enhanced the experience of organizers, vendors and visitors at 222 events (466 event days).
Community Engagement and Accessibility for All
In 2009, St. Louis Earth Day established an offshoot of the Recycling On the Go program to encourage waste diversion at small private or community events. Through the Do-It-Yourself (DIY) loan program, participants can borrow recycling containers to collect recycling at their events, without the expensive investment in containers and signage. By 2011, 23 of the 58 events at which St. Louis Earth Day provided event-greening services fell under the DIY program classification—a 50% increase from 2010! In this capacity, ROG bins were present at events like Habitat for Humanity build days, Eagle Days at Old Chain of Rocks Bridge, the Open Space Council for the St. Louis Region’s Operation Clean Stream, the St. Louis Walk to Defeat ALS and even a local Boy Scouts troop’s camping trip. While the diversion amounts at these loan events are relatively low, it is an important part of our program – introducing the concept of recycling away from home to a broader audience. The DIY program also demonstrates the ease and affordability with which an event can choose to “go green”.
Creating Opportunities for Employment
In 2011, St. Louis Earth Day employed nine graduates of the St. Patrick Center’s (SPC) Veterans GO! Green program for approximately 381 hours at six events between June and October. As part of the United States Department of Labor Veterans Workforce Investment Program (VWIP), Veterans GO! Green provides job training to assist in reintegrating veterans into meaningful employment within the green industry. Because the partnership with St. Patrick Center worked so well, ROG continues to employ Veterans GO! Green graduates to fill a portion of seasonal ROG positions.
St. Louis Earth Day began hosting annual workshops for professionals and volunteers who participate in the planning process for area events. This opportunity is emphasized for groups that SLED already works with to improve communication, clarify expectations and engage event planners throughout the entire planning process to enhance the overall waste diversion and sustainability goals. However, in promoting the workshops, SLED reaches out to the entire event planning community to spread knowledge and awareness of lessons learned and effective strategies all different kinds of events.
Education is at the heart of the Recycling On the Go program. Every time an event attendee has a clear choice to participate in the recycling effort by recycling their beverage container or composting their plates, the recycling education occurring at schools, in the work place and through residential campaigns is reinforced. When groups or individuals volunteer to help at a waste sorting station, they learn about compostable plant startch-based plastics and why collectors aren’t accepting #6 plastic. When we attend food vendor meetings to explain how the vendors are a critical component of the waste-reducing equation because they are bringing in the materials that will ultimately be recycled, composted or sent to the landfill, we are reaching caterers, food vendors and restaurant managers.
St. Louis Earth Day has a small, three-person staff and a handful of seasonal workers to implement the ROG program. Despite limited resources, the program continues to grow, servicing St. Louis City and County. The success of Recycling On the Go has been extraordinary with new requests for service coming in regularly. In 2012, St. Louis Earth Day continues to provide ROG services to events virtually every week from May through November. As of the end of July, all but one or two of the events ROG serviced included composting in addition to recycling services, increasing the overall waste diversion impact.
Over the past six seasons, the program has exposed approximately 3.86 million people to recycling when away from home–giving many the opportunity for environmental action or introducing them to RRR (reduce, reuse, recycle) concepts. Through these efforts, people have come to expect access to recycling containers when they attend an event; and, by working with annual events, we’ve been able to build and maintain positive relationships with event organizers and vendors. Although we take great pride in reducing, reusing and recycling waste, sharing that knowledge with others is the true gift of the ROG program.
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