An Inside Look at Keep Cass County Beautiful

This interview is part of a series of interviews with NRC members. The purpose is to provide insights into materials management programs and best practices of member municipalities, businesses, and service providers.
NRC member Keep Cass County Beautiful (KCCB) is a non-profit organization with a mission to educate, enable and encourage all Cass County residents to take greater responsibility for enhancing their community environment. We spoke with Linda Behrns, Executive Director of KCCB, to find out how their organization works to be successful in reducing waste throughout Cass County.

NRC: What steps has your organization taken to reduce waste and incorporate more sustainable materials and practices? Can you describe what you have done and what your initial goals were?

KCCB: Keep Cass County Beautiful began in 2012 with initial goals focused on recycling using several portable trailers located across Cass County. KCCB has grown its outreach in many areas. The organization uses a variety of educational platforms such as school and adult programs, social media outlets, print media and the KCCB website to constantly inform Cass County residents about best practices for waste reduction. The KCCB Youth Environmental Fair is held annually to educate all Cass County 5th graders and teachers about sustainable environmental practices. Our organization has also helped Cass County residents properly dispose of household hazardous waste and recycle electronics, appliances, and metals through several collection events. The electronics are either refurbished for resale or torn down and recycled to make other products. Annually, KCCB provides education at a booth at the Cass County Fair and helps reduce waste by collecting plastics, aluminum, and cardboard in 25 recycling bins on the fairgrounds. Rechargeable batteries and cell phones are constantly collected for recycling at several public libraries and city offices throughout the county. The KCCB “Loan a Bin” program offers recycling bins to organizations and communities to help reduce waste at local community events. A reduce waste event was held for the public at the Plattsmouth Public Library in March to teach citizens how to make safer home cleaning products. A “Trash to Treasure” event will be scheduled soon to reuse and repurpose common items that often end as trash.

NRC: How did the idea for making these changes arise in the first place?

KCCB: Working together with a supportive board, training from Keep Nebraska Beautiful, Keep America Beautiful, and other sources have provided research and best practices to make changes and add programs.

NRC: What are the most difficult aspects of maintaining the program and how do you handle them?

KCCB: The most difficult aspect of maintaining the recycling portion of our program has been the effect of the low global markets. Some local recycling companies are no longer collecting residential or commercial recycling. We have been able to move one of the county trailers to one community so residents can continue recycling. However, in another community, we have not arrived at a solution yet.

NRC: Have there been any unexpected barriers?

KCCB: Yes, one village board does not have the resources to support the hauling of a county recycling trailer.

NRC: Has the program led to other sustainability initiatives or overall awareness of renewable energy, water conservation, greenhouse gas reduction, employee benefits, etc.?

KCCB: KCCB participated in a Cass County Green Business program through a USDA Grant and helped businesses look for ways to reduce energy consumption – mainly electricity, natural gas, and water usage.

NRC: Are you tracking recycling, landfilling, reduction, and reuse (zero waste) metrics?

KCCB: We are trying to track the tons of recycling collected in the portable trailers through the county clerk, and we have amounts we’ve collected at KCCB electronic recycling events.

NRC: What have you done to engage the community?

KCCB: KCCB provides community engagement through quarterly newsletters, information through social media, print media, online community newsletters, fliers, and our website.

NRC: What are KCCB’s goals or aspirations going forward?

KCCB: Our goals are to continue our mission and engage more citizens in thinking first of reducing waste, reusing, repurposing, rethinking, and then recycling.

NRC: How do you think you can reach those goals?

KCCB: Continuing education through programs and events.

NRC: What are your biggest concerns going forward?

KCCB: Right now with the COVID-19 pandemic, there is more waste. Many people are getting away from recycling and using reusable bags and containers. We hope all will return to sustainable practices after the virus declines.

NRC: Do you have any advice for others trying to improve their programs?

KCCB: Continue to educate yourself as conditions and programs change.

NRC: What do you think is the single most important thing to do or the most important place to start when implementing the types of changes you have made?

KCCB: Create relationships first and have support from your board and other local agencies to have success.

NRC: If you had the power to change anything in the overall system of materials management outside your organization, what would it be?

KCCB: To help people reduce the waste that they create.

NRC: Have your interactions with NRC helped in this process?

KCCB: Yes, NRC provides valuable information and resources.

 

Thank you, Linda, for your valuable insight!