Our Zero Waste Journey with Nebraska Communities

Published August 02, 2018

NRC’s Zero Waste Community Roadmap Project started in 2013 with funding from the Nebraska Environmental Trust. Five communities were part of this initial project, the first of its kind in Nebraska that had government and civic leaders seeking to engage their communities in Zero Waste planning strategies and initiatives. Through education, dialogue, waste assessments, surveys, and visioning we were successful in helping leaders of these communities see the value of integrating a Zero Waste approach in their planning to reduce waste going to landfills. The project continued in 2016 with funding from the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality, and from there NRC continued to build on developing strategies for reducing waste through policy, infrastructure, and education. As this grant recently came to a close, here are a few highlights of our work with communities on their Zero Waste Journey:

Keep Cass County Beautiful drove and supported the implementation of a pay-as-you-throw model for residential trash services in Louisville, including an upgrade to their curbside recycling services with a free, 95-gallon recycling cart for bi-weekly pickup of household recyclables. The program, called “Save as You Throw” or SMART, saves energy, helps reduce greenhouse gases, encourages recycling, reduces waste sent to landfills, and will help sustain the environment for future generation. Last fall, the Hefty Energy Bag Program was included in their curbside recycling service, helping to divert hard-to-recycle plastics from the waste stream.

Louisville Public Schools piloted a composting program in the fall of 2016, a program that continues today. In the program’s first year, LPS collected over 30 cubic yards of organics. Nearly 5 tons of leftover food waste has been diverted from the landfill for composting. The school also has a strong recycling program, which collects about 14,500 pounds of mixed recyclables annually.

Wayne’s Green Team, a dynamic and engaging group of community volunteers that works closely with the City to make recommendations and propose initiatives, implemented new recycling programs for glass and batteries. Other programs for hard-to-recycle materials also continue through an annual electronics recycling event, household hazardous waste collection events, and recycling programs for holiday lights, eyeglasses, and prescription drugs. In 2017, they were awarded a very competitive grant through Keep America Beautiful, which leveraged further funding to purchase a total of 32 recycling bins for their public parks and community events.

Over this last year, the Wayne Green Team launched an educational Zero Waste Marketing Campaign using social media, newspaper and radio ads, mailings, events, and outreach to promote Zero Waste and the City’s recycling programs. Over $4,000 of NRC’s grant funding went to supporting their educational and promotional efforts.

NRC worked with community members, city officials, and staff in Broken Bow on options for a pay-as-you-throw model with their new waste hauling contract. Although the challenges of implementing a new program couldn’t be overcome, the City has made renewed investments in the community recycling program. A new, centralized location was sited for their drop-off recycling center with plans to improve the area with landscaping, lighting, and signage. NRC’s grant funding contributed $3,500 to the enhancement project.

NRC worked with Custer County Recycling (CCR) on developing and launching a regional educational campaign to reach residents in a 7-county area with CCR recycling trailers. A “Recycle Right at Area Drop-off Sites” flyer was mailed to over 10,000 households in the region to increase recycling participation and address some of the most problematic contamination issues.

Over $12,000 of grant funds directly supported our Zero Waste communities to promote and enhance their recycling and waste reduction initiatives. And over $55,000 worth of in-kind hours was reported by our community partners, volunteers, city officials, and staff on this Zero Waste Community Project grant.