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Make recycling a successful event

Keep Liberty County Beautiful

POSTED: August 18, 2007 5:04 a.m.
I often hear people say they wish we had more local events for families to enjoy. I honestly am a little surprised when I hear that, because I think for a small community there are quite a number of events during the year.
Recently, at a couple of local public events, like Liberty Fest, we began an “experiment” or — maybe I should say — a learning process.
We are trying to provide opportunities for recycling a limited number of items, such as plastic water and soda bottles and aluminum cans, at events. Now anyone who has ever chaired or organized large events  knows, it is a tremendous amount of work.  So I commend local organizers for their interest in participating in these efforts because I know they already have enough to do!
 Why go to all this effort? Have you ever considered how many tons of cans and plastics as well as food items, paper and cardboard are lost to the waste stream each year as a result of events in our county? Well, I have.  
If we are truly looking for ways to reduce the amount of waste ending up in landfills, we have to take action at these types of events, too. I recently wrote a grant application for portable recycling containers that can be used at events. In the course of making a case for why we needed them, we pulled together a list of more than 40 specific events and types of recurring ones that could possibly be venues for recycling. I was surprised at how many opportunities there would be in our county.
In addition to providing recycling containers, there are other key issues to consider in “greening up” public events:
• Educating event planners about adequate setup for waste and recycling disposal,
• Educating event planners and potential vendors about choosing recyclable containers and practical methods for waste management,
• Encouraging planners to consider restricting the use of certain types of containers from their events, such as styrofoam products,
• Encouraging attendees to make the events litter-free by using the provided waste and recycling containers — and not the ground — to discard empty food and drink containers,
• And — long term —  even looking for options to compost appropriate waste from local events.
Now, I am realistic enough to know it will take quite some time to pull this together, but we have to start somewhere.
Recently, I looked at figures from Earthfest, a major annual event in Knoxville, Tenn. As you may guess, this was an Earth Day celebration with numerous educational as well as fun booths and activities ... and loads of food and other types of vendors.
During the April 2007 event, the organizers were able to divert 97 percent of the waste generated at the event from the landfill. That is incredible! They also had virtually no litter. When you consider this event draws about 14,000 people, it is amazing. They’ve been fine tuning this process for eight years, so I know it takes some time, but it is possible. Keep Knoxville Beautiful is now working with other event organizers in their community with credible results. At a recent series of community concerts, they were able to divert about 75 percent of the waste for recycling and composting.  
The Earthfest organizers credit part of their success to the type of crowd they attract. Their event draws a crowd with a “friendly” attitude toward recycling and litter prevention and taking care of the earth.  
I hope we can encourage any crowd at any event to have a “friendly” attitude toward recycling, litter reduction and taking care of the earth.  It is after all our earth.  We should all want to take of it — at home and at public events.
As you attend National Night Out this Saturday at Bradwell Park, remember to recycle what you can and discard of your other garbage in the appropriate containers. Keep National Night Out litter-free!
For more information on Keep Liberty County Beautiful programs, contact me at 368-4888 or klcb@coastalnow.net
 

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