Avon receives award for recycling education efforts

Avon receives award for recycling education efforts
Avon received an “Outstanding Outreach” award from Recycle Colorado at the organization’s annual summit. Celebrating the award in Steamboat Springs are (left to right) Nina Waysdorf (Waste Diversion and Recycling Manager, City and County of Denver), Beth Markham (Environmental Sustainability Manager, Town of Vail), Charlotte Lin (Sustainability Coordinator, Town of Avon), Amelia Kovacs (Sustainability Programs Coordinator, Walking Mountains Science Center) and Emily Dennis (Zero Waste Lead, Walking Mountains Science Center).

Courtesy Photo

On Monday, May 22, the town of Avon received an “Outstanding Outreach” award from Recycle Colorado in recognition of its recycling education program.

Charlotte Lin, the town’s first sustainability coordinator, spearheaded the recycling education program being recognized in the run-up to the town’s universal recycling ordinance, which will go into effect this November.

“The whole point of education is to help people transition into successful recycling, whatever they need to do,” Lin said. “My philosophy, honestly, is that people already know a lot of these things, but a lot of times they just need a reassurance to say, ‘OK, I’m doing the right thing.’”

The education, she added, is to reconfirm the information for those individuals as well as provide resources and information for those who have questions about recycling. At every level, Lin said it’s “good for pretty much any level of learning and taking action.”

The need for increased education is bolstered by the fact that the town’s recycling rate isn’t as high as it could be despite reportedly very high registration rates for recycling, Lin added.

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Vail Honeywagon, the county’s primary waste management service, has previously reported that 90% of the households that it serves in Avon are registered for recycling. Lin, however, has maintained that this doesn’t directly correlate to high waste diversion rates.

‘Recycling Together’

The Recycle Together campaign launched Feb. 1.
Town of Avon/Courtesy photo

One of the ways the town is seeking to not only increase waste diversion but also enhance its understanding of residents’ and guests’ diversion habits is through the universal recycling ordinance. It modeled the ordinance off of a similar one in Vail, which the town passed in 2014, making Vail and Avon the first two Eagle County municipalities to require recycling for all.

In November, when the town’s recycling ordinance goes into effect, recycling will be required for all residents, commercial entities and visitors. It requires all multi-family and commercial properties to register for recycling services with their waste hauler and separate recyclable materials from landfill-bound trash.

So, in the approach to the start date for Avon’s universal recycling, Lin and the town launched the “Recycle Together” campaign in February of this year.

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The campaign includes a revamped website and education hub for residents to receive information about waste diversion in town; a weekly video series on social media called “Trash Talk Thursdays” where Lin answers resident questions about recycling, composting and reducing waste; in-person community forums; outreach to the business community and local lodging properties; as well as customized recycling consultations for individuals. 

The program, and specifically the videos, was an attempt to challenge typical governmental approaches to education and be more innovative and interactive, Lin said. The videos answer specific questions like “Should you crush aluminum cans before recycling them? What do we do with aseptic cartons such as those for broth, milk, juice and soup? Should I recycle plastic bottles with caps on?”  

While the town has yet to see an impact in terms of waste diversion numbers specifically, Lin said that it is building important connections in the community. 

“Part of our outreach is really to talk to as many people as we can, and so we’ve contacted most of our multifamily properties and talked to a lot of our businesses as well. We just feel like people kind of have this better confidence that they can reach out to us for support,” Lin said.

Prior to the campaign, individuals in Avon may have looked to Google for answers. However, with waste diversion, a lot of the information varies depending on where you live.

“Now everything that we make through this recycle education is really specialized specific toward Avon,” Lin said.

In addition to helping Avon residents and businesses move toward compliance with the recycling regulations, these educational resources are also laying a foundation for the town’s future sustainability efforts.

“At the beginning, we felt like without a lot of these fundamental materials, it was kind of hard for us to do anything bigger,” Lin said.

Now, with the materials and new hub in place, it’s easy to point residents to answers for common questions and it has the necessary resources when the town meets and hosts trainings for HOAs as well as hosts public forums and events. All of which allow the town to take basic outreach to the next level.

The next level for Lin and the town’s sustainability department include a set of 15 goals set by the Town Council. The goals include everything from creating an inventory of the town’s greenhouse gas emissions, preventing vehicle idling, creating a program to incentivize electrification, creating a composting program, forming building benchmarks and more.

Recycle Colorado’s Outstanding Outreach award

This initiative was a collaborative effort of not only the town of Avon leadership and departments but also with Walking Mountains, Lin said. An effort, she added, that is “symbolic of what we need to do for sustainability.”

“We all need to work together on this,” Lin said.

The award from Recycle Colorado acknowledges all of the work thus far and its potential looking ahead, Lin said.

Lin accepted the award on behalf of the town at Recycle Colorado’s annual summit. Recycle Colorado is a statewide nonprofit working to promote and expand waste reduction, recovery and diversion efforts in Colorado.

Walking Mountains — which is also a member of Recycle Colorado — nominated the town for the award, which recognizes an organization or entity that has worked to promote recycling, composting or waste reduction in the state.

As the education initiative is still in its infancy, Lin said the award and recognition is “really great encouragement for us to keep going.”

“Even beyond the November compliance deadline, we 100% recognize that we need to continue doing this education pretty much forever. So this is really just the beginning,” Lin said.