Best practices in recycling and waste prevention — take a look at these EPA award-winning projects for ideas

by Brianna Crandall — January 29, 2018 — The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently recognized the waste prevention and diversion accomplishments of the 16 WasteWise national award winners, who collectively prevented and recycled over 355,801 tons of waste, saving $17.7 million in avoided landfill fees.

Highlights of the awardees’ waste prevention and diversion efforts, whether by office, retail, foodservice, healthcare, industrial, recreational or higher education facilities, include:

  • Diverting industrial operational waste from landfill through recycling, reuse, liquidation and donation programs
  • Using on-site solar
  • Installing LEDs and automating lighting, with features like automatic daylight shut-off and motion sensors
  • Using compostable foodservice products and vessels
  • Installing low-flow plumbing fixtures
  • Distributing shopping bags made out of recycled plastic
  • Offering in-store collection of recyclable plastic bags, shipping envelopes, air pillows and product wrap
  • Using locally sourced food, donating excess food to hungry people, and composting food waste
  • Donating end-of-life Ultra-High molecular weight polyethylene plastics to local area tech schools for use by computer numerical control (CNC) classes
  • Recycling unusable cardboard boxes to make desktop calendars and children’s book covers
  • Recycling scrap tires to make into new products
  • Sending used vehicle oils off-site to be converted into biodiesel or reconditioned for reuse
  • Reusing vehicle oil as a heating source for vehicle maintenance facilities
  • Donated discarded office supplies and used furniture to benefactors such as not-for-profit associations, churches, teachers, and community involvement institutions
  • Recycling used anti-freeze and batteries for trucks and forklifts
  • Ordering multiple Tesla Semi all-electric day cab tractors to reduce carbon emissions
  • Composting green debris to use for landscaping and reforestation projects in an urban park
  • Redistributing excess property, or reusing it through General Services Administration (GSA) auctions, whether furnishings, equipment or supplies
  • Coordinating curbside recycling/compost/refuse collection
  • Collecting mercury-containing fluorescent bulbs from college dorms for recycling
  • Recycling rechargeable and single-use batteries, including alkaline, lithium, and lead acid batteries
  • Recycling flammable liquids from research laboratories, and repurposing flammable liquids through fuel blending and energy recovery processes
  • Reducing copper, zinc and mercury discharge levels to local water systems
  • Recovering silver from the discharge of a dental school’s film development process
  • Used the local water district’s recycled wastewater to provide water for a university’s chillers and cooling towers and for irrigation
  • Developing a recycling team and a hard-to-recycle-materials program that includes compacting all types of polystyrene for resale
  • Creating a “Move In Move Out” program, in which students donate and recycle old shoes, clothing and other hard-to-recycle items
  • Offering tray-less dining and bulk condiments in university dining halls to avoid waste

For 23 years, EPA’s WasteWise program has partnered with communities, organizations and businesses to apply sustainable materials management practices to prevent and reduce municipal and select industrial wastes, saving them resources and money.

WasteWise partners reported preventing and diverting 8.5 million tons of waste that would otherwise have been disposed in landfills or incinerators. These actions — which include waste prevention, recycling, composting and donation — saved participants over $400 million in avoided landfill fees.

WasteWise partners who report the best overall improvement in waste prevention and recycling activities when compared to the previous year receive awards in various categories.

The 16 national award winners are:

College and University

  • Texas: Partner of the Year — University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio
  • Georgia: Honorable Mention — Georgia State University

Federal Government

  • California: Partner of the Year — The Presidio Trust

Large Business

  • New Jersey: Partner of the Year — Ravitz Family Markets, Price Rite Supermarkets, Inc.
  • New Jersey: Honorable Mention — Ravitz Family Markets, Shoprite:  Union Mill Rd., Mount Laurel Supermarkets, Inc.

Local Government

  • Illinois: Partner of the Year — City of Urbana
  • Florida: Honorable Mention — City of Fort Lauderdale

Mid-size Business

  • Wisconsin: Partner of the Year — Frito Lay, Beloit, WI
  • Virginia: Honorable Mention — JK Moving Services

Nonprofit Organization

  • Massachusetts: Partner of the Year — Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center

School/School District

  • Florida: Partner of the Year — Pasco County Schools

Small Business

  • Missouri: Partner of the Year — Urban Chestnut Brewing Company
  • California: Honorable Mention — Earth Friendly Products
  • Washington: Honorable Mention — CenturyLink Field

Very Large Business

  • Wisconsin: Partner of the Year — Kohl’s Department Stores
  • Illinois: Honorable Mention — Sears Holdings Corporation

All US businesses, governments and nonprofit organizations can join WasteWise. For more information, visit the EPA Web site.