LISBON -2013 was a good year for the three-county solid waste district.
The district, which serves Columbiana, Carroll and Harrison counties, not only set a new record for recycling last year but was recently named the Ohio Environmental Group of the Year by the Environmental Education Council of Ohio.
The district collected 8.4 million pounds of recyclable materials last year at its numerous drop-off sites, a 6.3 percent increase over 2012, which was also a record year.
Barbara Walton, director of administration, believes the biggest reason for the increase is they made recycling easier in 2013 by going to what they call a single-stream container system, which allows plastics, cans, bottles, glass, cardboard, newspapers and magazines to be disposed of in a single container instead of separated.
"That makes it easier to recycle," Walton said of allowing all the materials to be disposed of in the same Dumpster container. "The easier you make it on residents to recycle, the better."
Since going to the single-stream system, Walton said they are no longer able to measure recycling by county or by individual location, although they hope to get back to that in the future.
"We're hoping in the next several years to have that remedied with scales on the trucks," she said.
As the largest county, Columbiana County's recycling collections obviously dwarfed the much smaller Carroll and Harrison counties. There are 30 permanent sites in the county where recyclable materials can be disposed of, with the most used still being in Columbiana, East Palestine, Lisbon and Salem.
The record 8.4 million pounds recycled last year represents only 12 percent of the possible waste generated within the three counties that could have been recycled, Walton said. She noted this figure is only an estimate based on waste collected in the district and disposed of at licensed landfills, and it may be somewhat skewed by other factors.
"We're getting there, but there's still a lot of material out there that can be recycled, and all we can do is continue with our efforts to educate the public," Walton said.
Educating the public is a major component of the waste district's overall efforts to reduce waste and encourage recycling. Its educational efforts figured prominently in the recent award the district received. The following is a partial list of some of the district's accomplishments that earned it the award:
-Created a recycling and litter prevention program for use at residential summer camps in the area that served 20,000 youths.
Awarded six $500 "mini" grants to middle schools in the districts to start pilot environmental programs.
-Developed a series of educational in-service training programs, in conjunction with NASA and the Ohio EPA and using STEM performance standards, for middle school teachers in the district.
- Helped the Lisbon middle/high School and Harrison Hills Elementary School obtain $5,000 grants through the Ohio Environmental Educational Fund to develop an environmental education curriculum involving hands-on activities.
- Developed school-based recycling programs in all three counties.
-Conducted more than 200 environmental education programs for school groups and youth organizations.
- Developed an internship program for college students from the district.
- Worked with Lowes, the city of Salem and Salem High School Key Club to develop a plan to keep plastics and leaves from the being washed into storm sewers, with the leaves used for compost.
"We thought it was a wonderful honor," Walton said of the award, "especially when you're honored by your peers."
The district also hosts annual events on a rotating basis in each county where residents can dispose of tires, appliances, electronic devices and household hazardous wastes.