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Northwest Arkansas dominated the Arkansas Recycling Coalition’s 2020 and 2021 awards for their work to recycle more and build public knowledge around recycling.

Boston Mountain Solid Waste District, which covers Washington and Madison counties, and the city of Fayetteville each took home Recycling Education Program of the Year awards – Boston Mountain for 2020, Fayetteville for 2021 – in honor of their work in area schools and with composting.

Pack Rat Outdoor Center, an exceptionally eco-friendly shop in Fayetteville, won Small Business Recycler of the Year for 2020.

And E-Waste Warriors NWA, a local group working to boost electronics recycling, came on top with the Community Involvement Award for 2021.

The recycling coalition announced two years’ awards at once during its conference this month because last year’s conference was canceled. Luckily that means we can share these organizations’ great work in one swoop.

2020 Recycling Education Program of the Year: Boston Mountain Solid Waste District

Waste districts cover the whole state and have several jobs, including regulating trash hauling and dumping within their boundaries and providing disposal options for recyclables and hazardous waste. To teach how recycling works and build good habits over time, Boston Mountain holds education programs for all ages with a particular focus on elementary school students.

Those programs involve activities like Recycling Relay, where student teams race to properly sort recyclables and non-recyclables, and holding tours of recycling facilities. There are also competitions, such as the Art of Recycling sculpture contest in the fall and a springtime challenge to collect 2,000 colored, #2 jugs and bottles to win a school bench made from recycled plastic.

The overarching goal: Introduce students to concepts and activities that help build a lasting foundation of recycling knowledge.

2020 Small Business Recycler of the Year: Pack Rat Outdoor Center

Pack Rat Outdoor Center in Fayetteville recycles most of its waste and holds recycling events such as trash pickups.

This outdoor recreation and equipment store has been in business almost 50 years and has emphasized sustainability since its founding by Scott and Carolyn Crook. Pack Rat’s log-cabin exterior was built with recycled and dead logs (as opposed to cutting down living trees), it’s energy-efficient and nearly all solar-powered, and it holds community pickups every year.

By examining its waste and experimenting with recycling setups, the store also diverts nearly all of its waste from the landfill.

Fayetteville picks up food waste from the store and its employees for composting. Scrap metal, like in old or broken fixtures, goes to local scrappers. The store’s plastic merchandise packaging, which is made of a hard-to-recycle plastic called #4 low density polyethylene, goes to local manufacturer MoistureShield for composite decking. And the store includes public drop-offs for plastic bottles, cans, wine corks and various types of packaging.

From 2017 to 2020, Pack Rat recycled more than 20 tons of material.

2021 Recycling Education Program of the Year: City of Fayetteville

Fayetteville has a goal to divert 40% of its waste by 2027, and composting the food scraps that make up 18% of its trash would be a big step in that direction.

Fayetteville gives away food composting buckets for residents to collect food scraps at home.

With that in mind, the city last year launched a residential food waste program to complement its existing program that collects food waste from restaurants and other establishments. Residents can bring their old fruit peels and vegetable stems to several 24-7 drop-off locations around the city.

A U.S. Department of Agriculture grant has also helped the city use a 16-foot mobile education and collection unit and pass out hundreds of free food-scrap buckets to residents during the weekend farmers market.

And the city isn’t done yet, with goals to add more drop-off locations and spread awareness of those new locations with door hangers in surrounding neighborhoods. The goal is to have a drop-off within a couple miles or so of every resident.

2021 Community Involvement Award: E-Waste Warriors NWA

Rogers high school students Abigail Fleming and Jackson Guthrie started E-Waste Warriors last year to bring hold recycling drives and help more people recycle electronics safely, they told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette earlier this year.

The first event in February brought in more than 4 tons of devices from more than 100 people. Another cleanup followed in August.

That officially makes this community organization another piece in the wider recycling puzzle, joining eSCO Processing and Recycling, the area’s solid waste districts, many of its cities and other organizations that collect e-waste. Learn more about these efforts and why e-waste recycling matters on our blog. You can also find E-Waste Warriors online.