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Wisconsin Recycling Excellence Awards

The 2018 Recycling Excellence Award winners have been announced!

The DNR recognizes outstanding recycling and waste minimization efforts through its annual Recycling Excellence Award program. This page contains information about the award nomination process and highlights the achievements of recent winners.

The Recycling Excellence Awards celebrate the outstanding recycling efforts, innovation and performance of communities and organizations, both small and large, throughout Wisconsin. Any recycling responsible unit (RU) or organization that recognizes excellence in its own program or any other program is encouraged to self-nominate or submit a nomination on another program's behalf. Nominations are accepted annually during the summer and recipients are announced in November.

Awards are presented to RUs and organizations for their successes in four categories including overall program, projects and initiatives, special events and innovation. More information on each of these categories and a list of the 2018 award winners is provided in the table below.

2018 award categories and winners

DNR 2018 awards news release

Category Recognition Winners
Projects and Initiatives Recognizes a defined project or initiative that increases materials recycled or diverted, and/or improves the cost effectiveness of a recycling/diversion program.

Honorable mention

Overall Program Recognizes programs that are robust and constantly improving, demonstrating a commitment to advance the overall recycling/diversion program.
Special Events Recognizes effective recycling at a special event by offering recycling for the first time or expanding.
Innovation Recognizes a program that demonstrates unique and innovative approaches to recycling.

2018 highlights of award winners

The Recycling Excellence Awards recognize innovative and exciting recycling and waste reduction efforts by local and tribal governments, businesses and other groups in Wisconsin. Below are highlights from the 2018 Recycling Award winners.

Associated Recyclers of Wisconsin educates through social media campaigns

AROW recycling campaign logo

The Associated Recyclers of Wisconsin received the Projects and Initiatives Award for conducting effective statewide recycling education. In 2017, the organization reworked its RecycleMoreWisconsin.org website, providing a resource about waste reduction, recycling, composting and disposal of special wastes for residents and businesses. It also developed a social media presence on Facebook by the same name that shares tips about recycling right from around the state as well as from national organizations. The group conducted social media campaigns for Earth Day and America Recycles Day (2017) with measurable increases in participation. A social media initiative for America Recycles Day was about recycling right and was themed, “The 12 Days of Recycling,” including six “do’s” and six “don’ts” for recycling.

Badger Materials and partners Wolf, MCC and Tri-County Paving collect and process shingles for reuse

Badger Materials staff with award

Badger Materials Recycling of Oconomowoc and its partners Wolf, MCC and Tri-County Paving received the Overall Program Award for shingle recycling collection and processing and for their ongoing efforts to provide clear education about acceptable materials. Badger has its own customized equipment for processing shingles and tires, both for reuse in asphalt materials. It also processes wood for animal bedding, mulch and paddock fill. Through its website and Facebook account, Badger provides detailed explanations, enhanced by photos and lists that clearly delineate sorting protocol and acceptable and non-acceptable materials. Fliers are available for download. Badger Materials and its partners provide four drop-off facilities, all with processing equipment and employees serving a broad region of the state. They pick up loads and also recycle metals. Contributing processed shingles as a portion of aggregate used for making road beds, conserves aggregate reserves. In 2017, Badger Materials recycled approximately 44 tons of recycled asphalt shingles.

Eagle River Elementary’s Recycling Club collects traditional and unique materials

Students in the Eagle Base Recycling Club

Eagle River Elementary School in Vilas County received a Projects and Initiatives Award for starting and operating an in-school recycling program and encouraging three other schools to recycle also. The students created the Earth Base Recycling Club with 20 to 40 students meeting weekly to sort the recyclables for pickup and to collect other items such as juice pouches, markers and crayons and send them to companies for repurposing. The club donates all proceeds to local environmental and animal shelter organizations.

Eau Claire County Recycling creates a new Recycling and Disposal Guide

Eau Claire County representatives with award

The Eau Claire County Recycling Division received a Projects and Initiatives Award for focusing on education through a multi-faceted communications plan. The county wanted to improve its residents’ access to information about recycling and proper disposal of various waste types. It created a new Recycling and Disposal Guide and mailed it to all residents. The county revamped its website to include more images, hyperlinks, graphics and also new guide, which receives about 350 views per month. The county increased its social media postings to five per week and its Facebook posts reach 23,600 people. The county’s Summer Clean Sweep recycling event had the largest turnout on record.

Helfenstein Soup Council promotes recycling through creative reuse workshops

Helfenstein representative with award

The Helfenstein Soup Council of Green Bay received an Innovation Award for promoting recycling through reuse by transforming lawns or portions of lawns into flower and vegetable gardens and creating ‘new’ objects that are both artistic and practical. Examples of their projects include: scrap pieces of wood made into bird houses and signs, cat toys made from burlap, purses made from blue jeans, greeting cards from used paper, and many options for yard and garden walkways and ornaments. Volunteers have promoted the ‘trash to treasures’ reuse message through workshops, classes and conference presentations at schools, libraries, clubs, conferences and other groups, all of which are zero waste events. Attendees have said that they go away inspired to rethink what they throw away.

 

Hilltopper Refuse and Recycling creates a new position for regional special event recycling

Hilltopper special event recycling bins

Hilltopper Refuse and Recycling Services, Inc. of Onalaska received a Special Events Award for creating a job position specifically to focus on special events recycling in the region. The new staff person organized recycling at a number of events, provided education for event organizers and attendees, and conducted assessments after the events with Hilltopper staff, all with the goal of improving community recycling habits. Events included a 70,000-person music festival, a parade, large dinners, community days and others, and yielded more than six tons of recyclables. Hilltopper was pleased with volume of recyclables collected and the enthusiastic response from the public.

Milwaukee County Zoological Gardens diverts herbivore waste to composting

Elephant at the Milwaukee Zoo

The Milwaukee County Zoological Gardens received an Honorable Mention for Projects and Initiatives. In 2017, the zoo completed its first full year in partnership with Blue Ribbon Organics for herbivore animal waste diversion. The zoo has more than 3,000 animals; one elephant produces hundreds of pounds of waste per day. The zoo trucks the waste to the composting facility and last year diverted 609 tons of waste from the landfill to reuse through the composting process.

Village of Weston starts task force to improve recycling and creates new Refuse & Recycling Guide

Village of Weston representatives with award

The Village of Weston received the Overall Program Award for establishing a Refuse/Recycling Task Force Committee to improve recycling and for developing a comprehensive Refuse and Recycling Guide. The reference can be used all year for community-specific information on what to put in carts, what not to put in carts, and how to properly recycle or dispose of many materials such as used oil, appliances, prescription medications, sharps, batteries and more. The guide also alerts residents to holiday scheduling, reports on recycling tonnages and provides information about resources for event recycling. The village also conducted waste audits and documented results and holds an annual recycling contest with gifts for winners in honor of America Recycles Day.

Waukesha County Parks and Land Use create innovative recycling exhibit and curriculum

Waukesha County recycling exhibit

The Waukesha County Department of Parks and Land Use received an Innovation Award for creating an interactive recycling exhibit and a comprehensive environmental curriculum for K-12 students. After selling the county’s materials recovery facility and partnering with the city of Milwaukee, only 5th graders and older could tour the recycling facility serving their families. Waukesha County took two actions to continue recycling education and environmental stewardship for youth. It partnered with the Retzer Environmental Learning Center to design a multi-room, hands-on recycling exhibit called Your Actions Matter: A Collaborative Solution for Recycling Education. Visitors handle materials and make decisions about material routing in various exhibit settings, including a home and yard, materials recovery facility, re-manufacturing center and local market. The exhibit is also part of a new, cooperative K-12 comprehensive environmental curriculum called Science & Environmental Education: Community Connection, Impacts & Actions. Created in partnership with the Waukesha School District and Carroll University, the curriculum emphasizes recycling and is being used in all the schools in the Waukesha School District.

West Allis sees recycling increase with change to carts and extensive communications plan

West Allis "We're on a roll" logo

West Allis Department of Public Works received the Overall Program Award for upgrading their recycling collection from 30-gallon bags to 96-gallon carts for 22,000 residents in homes and apartments up to 4-plexes. The city developed and implemented a Recycling Cart Conversion Communications Plan that included multiple audiences, two languages, four social media platforms, their website, a newsletter, an informative brochure with an e-cycling page, a reinforcement sticker, postcards, a video and a Frequently Asked Questions door knob hanger. The city’s investment is paying off. The amount of recyclables collected increased by 50 percent and the city now meets it per capita collection standard for the first time since 2010.

2017 highlights of award winners

Below are highlights from the 2017 Recycling Award winners.

McKinley Elementary reduces waste by composting and recycling plastic bags

McKinley Elementary recycling program

McKinley Elementary School in Milwaukee County received the Projects and Initiatives Award for starting a new cafeteria composting program and expanding its recycling program. Two teachers developed a working partnership including school staff, parents and Compost Crusaders. The school also began to collect and recycle plastic grocery bags. Diverting organics from the waste stream and improving recycling resulted in a reduction in trash pick-ups and the need for a larger recycling dumpster. The Wauwatosa School District offered open enrollment to the rest of the district’s schools to be a part of the compost program. Students from McKinley give presentations about the composting process to encourage the other schools to join in.

“The 90s called. They want their bin back.” Outagamie County transitions rural communities to carts

Outagamie County recycling bin and cart

The Outagamie County Recycling and Solid Waste Program received the Projects and Initiatives Award for transitioning 13 rural municipalities to larger, automated carts. This resulted in increased tonnage collected and improved set-out rates. The county received a grant from the Recycling Partnership toward the purchase of new 95-gallon wheeled carts and to provide outreach and education about the new project. The county’s outreach included postcards, billboards, banners and a TV spot with a catchy phrase, “The 90s called. They want their bin back.” The county also held a special media event to kick off the new carts. Recycling increased in those communities by 14 percent in less than a year.

Rick Schultz and Watertown pilot new recycling projects

Rick Schultz with award

Rick Schultz and the city of Watertown received the Projects and Initiatives Award for taking a risk on a new beneficial reuse for glass, accepting material for beneficial use in his gravel pit. Schultz has a history of being willing to try new things to divert materials from landfills, often being first to pilot a project. Examples include a latex paint collection program, where the paint was recycled (as opposed to dried and disposed of), which ended in December 2017, and a retired mattress recycling program. Even when an initiative doesn’t work out, Schultz does not hesitate to try again. This is a risk communities take when they are willing to take a chance on a new idea/provider.

Jerry Martell and Modern Disposal Systems provide years of recycling solutions

Jerry Martell with award

Jerry Martell and Modern Disposal Systems received the Overall Program Award. Through commitment, creativity and sustained effort over many years, Martell and his business, Modern Disposal Systems, have encouraged recycling throughout the region. Jerry partnered with Buffalo County Solid Waste to develop recycling collection systems for each township. When Monroe County’s recycling transfer station was operating at capacity, Modern Disposal itself invested in two more transfer stations to serve the county, saving the county the expense of expanding or building a new facility. Besides working to improve recycling programs in western Wisconsin, Martell has supported the students in the Sparta High School Earth Club to expand the types of materials they recycle. Martell is known for strategizing about recycling efficiency even if it means less income for Modern Disposal.

Milwaukee House of Correction inmates volunteer in recycling program with dual benefit

House of Corrections staff with award

The Milwaukee County House of Correction received the Overall Program Award for institutional diversion of trash with its recycling program. Inmates who choose to participate in the recycling program earn an hour of “good time” for every hour worked. This has the dual benefit of reducing time from their sentence (inmates work an average of 24 hours/week to remove one day from their sentence) and educating them on the recycling process. Recycling efforts have resulted in a 33 percent reduction in waste at the facility.

Preschool of the Arts expands recycling program and starts composting

Compost carts outside of Preschool for the Arts

The Preschool for the Arts received an honorable mention in the Overall Program Award category. A newly formed sustainability committee, under the direction of Kristin Slava, worked to increase recycling at the school, including batteries and electronics. The school also partnered with the city of Madison to begin a composting program. In addition, the school started recycling baby food pouches with Terracycle. Recycling, composting and sustainability are now focuses in all classrooms, bathrooms, the staff lounge and the kitchen. All of these efforts have resulted in measurable diversion of waste and offer a model of proper recycling practices for young children.

Glean Central Wisconsin diverts farmer market leftovers to food pantries

Gleaned vegetables

Glean Central Wisconsin received the Recycling Excellence Award for Innovation. The organization connects volunteers and farmers at farmers’ markets to divert excess edible produce that would otherwise be disposed of to those in need. An hour before the end of the market, volunteers hand out large canvas bags to the farmers, who fill them with produce that didn’t sell that day and might go to waste. The volunteers then deliver the bags to food pantries and community kitchens. Started in 2014 in Stevens Point, the program expanded to include the Wisconsin Rapids Farmers’ Market. In 2016, nearly 10,000 pounds of food were diverted from landfills to low-income families in Portage and Wood counties.

Past winners

 

Last revised: Thursday November 15 2018