Tennessee State Parks Awarded Government Recycler of the Year

Friday, October 21, 2016 | 11:21am

Tennessee State Parks was named the 2016 Government Recycler of the Year at the Tennessee Recycling Coalition’s annual banquet on Oct. 17 in Oak Ridge.

In 2015, Tennessee State Parks and the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation’s (TDEC) Office of Sustainable Practices launched the “Go Green With Us” initiative. The program encourages park staff and visitors to increase their sustainability efforts, beginning with recycling. Teams of supporters for each park were assembled, educational materials were created, and recycling and waste numbers were tracked. Efforts paid off and in 2015, park visitors recycled 616,997 pounds of various materials.

“With 56 state parks in our system and over 34 million visitors annually, we have a unique opportunity to lead an effort to divert a significant amount of waste,” said Robin Peeler, East Tennessee Parks Area Manager. “As part of TDEC, we have a responsibility to uphold the mission to be stewards of our natural environment. We want our visitors to feel like they are a part of that experience by setting an example at our parks.”

Each year, the Coalition honors the most dedicated and successful individuals and organizations working to advance recycling in Tennessee. The banquet also included two days of educational and networking opportunities at the Y-12 National Security Complex New Hope Center. 

“Partnership is at the heart of the recycling industry,” said Pat Flood, Director of TDEC’s Division of Solid Waste Management. “The diversity of current and past award winners exemplifies that – ranging from public schools to manufacturers to nonprofits. We are all important players in Tennessee’s recycling value chain.”

Additional 2016 award winners include:

American Recycled Plastic, Inc. – Business Recycler of the Year
American Recycled Plastic is a family business in Friendsville, TN that manufactures site furnishings and outdoor furniture made from recycled plastics. The products are not only durable and virtually maintenance-free, but also consume vast quantities of recyclables helping to close the loop and keep markets strong for the materials that consumers recycle. Their products can be seen at Walt Disney World, the Kennedy Space Center and Fall Creek Falls State Park. Additionally, American Recycled Plastics has a special program to assist schools and parks with funding needs for park benches and picnic tables.

Turnip Green Creative Reuse – Nonprofit Recycler of the Year
Founded in 2011 with the mission to foster creativity and sustainability through reuse, Turnip Green accepts materials donations of all kinds and in turn provides supplies to community artists, educators and children regardless of their ability to pay. They operate a retail shop in Nashville that features recycled works by local artists with proceeds supporting their programs. Turnip Green is a strong community advocated for reuse and repurposing. They offer more than 200 workshops each year and support numerous community outreach events. Their efforts resulted in diverting more than 50 tons of waste last year alone. 

Michie Elementary – School Recycler of the Year
Michie Elementary School began a small recycling program five years ago. Today they have a full-scale materials management program. Beyond recycling traditional materials like classroom papers and food service packaging, they also compost milk cartons, craft holiday ornaments from reclaimed materials and collect clothes to donate to charities. Throughout the school year they educate not only students, but also the larger community on the importance of conserving resources.

Christiana Middle School – Recycling Video of the Year
Student Collin Deery from Christiana Middle School in Rutherford County received the Recycling Video of the Year award for his 2+ minute film ‘Tale of Two Bottles’. Students take us on a journey of what happens to one water bottle tossed in a garbage can and another disposed of appropriately in a recycling container. A link to their video on YouTube can be found here.

John Homa – Tom Hattle Memorial Award
The Tom Hattle Memorial Award honors a community leader for advancing recycling through dedication and service. John Homa has been a tireless advocate for recycling in Tennessee, having dedicated the last 20 years both working and volunteering in the field. John has traveled the Southeast sharing his expertise in the areas of problem waste recycling and zero-waste events. During his tenure with the City of Knoxville, John initiated a collection program for unwanted pharmaceuticals that became the model for a statewide program. He also launched the city’s Curbside Single Stream Recycling Program and expanded the offerings at recycling drop-off locations.