The Southeast US is home to a large and ever-expanding manufacturing industry using recycled feedstock. The Southeast Recycling Development Council (SERDC) is a member-based non-profit organization that works with (and beyond) eleven states to promote recycling and its economic benefits in the Southeast by strengthening relationships across the recycling value chain.

With the vision to be a catalyst for superior recycling performance and economic impact in the Southeast, SERDC is focused on recognizing leaders in the Southeast that are making significant impacts in the recycling industry. 

  • Public Recycling Champion Winner

This award is open to SERDC states, municipalities and county governments that have successfully implemented game changing initiatives, policies or programs to increase recycling in their jurisdiction.

Orange County, NC

Orange County Solid Waste launched the Recycling Stars Program to improve the overall quality and quantity of recyclables collected from households around the County. Residents recycling properly are rewarded with star stickers and raffle entries. Residents who need additional information on recycling properly receive ‘oops’ tags, personalized contamination letters, and other educational materials. Households that receive two star stickers in a row are entered in a raffle for a chance to win a $50 gift certificate to a local farmer’s market, $50 Visa gift card or an Earth Machine Composter. In addition, yard signs are offered to households that receive at least two orange star stickers.

One number they are comfortable reporting on is the reduction of contamination in carts, specifically plastic bags. The initial inspections showed 35% of the carts had plastic bags and by the 4th inspection, only 17% of carts still included plastic bags.  In addition, overall, they have seen about 58% of carts improve in the materials placed inside the carts.  The incorporation of raffle prizes is a positive spin on traditional cart tagging and the yard signs create a friendly competition among neighbors. In addition to the Stars program, Orange County Solid Waste offers the County Recycle Right Flyer in seven languages.

Runner up- Haywood County, NC

Haywood County secured grant funding from multiple organizations (NC DEACS, The Recycling Partnership, SERDC) to make the transition from blue bags to carts possible. The County first partnered with Maggie Valley to get 1,100 recycling carts in 2016, worked with Canton and Clyde to purchase 2,465 carts in 2019, and finished with 4,500 carts in Waynesville in 2021.

Haywood County was instrumental in the success of the recycling cart “roll-outs” by ensuring that educational materials (brochures, cart decals) were delivered with the carts so residents have clear information about what is recyclable. As a result, Haywood County estimates that the countywide project is reducing 425,000 blue bags annually. 

Noteworthy about this transition was the partnership between the counties and municipalities. Additionally, Haywood County is innovating by partnering with Haywood Community College on a Recycling Education Pilot Program where college students teach local elementary schools about the importance of recycling.

    • Industry Recycling Champion Winner

      This award is open to recycling processors, equipment designers, manufacturers and related facilities that successfully challenge and advance recycling sector operations in the Southeast. It recognizes innovation that increases the effectiveness or efficiency of recycling and that leads all others in key measurements, such as quantity of materials collected and/or processed, types of materials recovered, site improvements, or sustainability measures adopted.

      Single Stream Recyclers (Sarasota, FL)

      Single Stream Recyclers (SSR), a Balcones Resources company, is known for consistently investing in the newest and greatest sortation technology to help create the best possible end products and improve recovery rates. SSR operates a cutting-edge, 50-ton-per-hour materials recovery facility (MRF) in Sarasota, Florida.  The SSR MRF stands out as one of the most technologically advanced and automated MRFs in the United States. It is Florida’s first artificial intelligence-powered recycling facility, leveraging a fleet of 10 different units, in addition to 14 optical sorters. The introduction of AI resulted in a remarkable 142% increase in pick rate, going from 35 picks to 85 picks per minute immediately after the robots were installed. 

      On average SSR processes more than 145,000 tons of material a year, and currently receives between 9,000 to 10,000 tons per month depending on the season. The MRF design and retrofits have resulted in a material recovery rate between 90% and 95%.

      Runner up- Liberty Tire (LTR Products- Sanford, NC)

      While the highest end uses for recycled rubber are promoted and sought by the company, tire derived fuel (TDF) historically has been and continues to be a strong base outlet for rubber derived products across the country. In 2020 one of the largest company outlets for TDF in the country, located in NC, ceased operations that primarily received processed tire rubber from NC, SC, and GA..  LTR invested in excess of $8 million dollars in a new state of the art finishing facility for rubber mulch in Sanford, NC, LTR Products.  LTR Products began production of rubber mulch in March of 2022.  The plant produces approximately 100 million pounds of rubber mulch. This production recycles 2.5 million passenger tire equivalents per year (PTEs).  At full capacity, LTR Products will produce 140 million pounds of mulch per year, diverting 3.5 million PTEs from landfill disposal.  The opening of the LTR Products created 30 new jobs and an economic boost for the region.

      • Non-Profit Recycling Champion Winner

      This award is open to non-profit organizations, including trade groups that exemplify excellence in recycling and/or public education programs within the SERDC region.

      Live Thrive (GA)

      Live Thrive is an Atlanta-based nonprofit launched in 2010 to empower people, organizations, communities and businesses to make positive, healthy and sustainable changes for the benefit of the environment. In 2015, Live Thrive opened the Center for Hard to Recycle Materials (CHaRM), a permanent drop-off facility that accepts traditional, single-stream items, as well as those that are more difficult or dangerous to recycle, with a second location projected to open in late summer 2023.

      CHaRM has grown from a facility that welcomed 5,000 visitors in 2015 to one that saw 75,000 visitors in 2022.  In 2022, CHaRM diverted more than 5.7 million pounds of materials, including: 242,406 pounds of Styrofoam 514,868 pounds of chemicals 489,402 pounds of glass 577,633 pounds of electronics 841,227 pounds of paint 395,908 pounds of plastics 94,874 pounds of aluminum cans 596,406 pounds of cardboard 651 bicycles 518 musical instruments 3,500 mattresses CHaRM’s team hosts more than 40 Corporate Lunch and Learns per year.

      Special Humanitarian Mention for Tiny House Community Development/Triad Foam Recycling Coalition (NC)

      The Triad Foam Recycling Coalition through Tiny House Community Development, Inc has offered EPS (foam) recycling to the triad area for 2 years and to date have collected, sorted and densified over 40,000 lbs of EPS. In addition to a drop off program at their Greensboro facility, collection trailers have been placed throughout Greensboro, High Point, Elon, Winston Salem and Greensboro.  In addition the organization runs a Workforce Development Program that offers employment and job training to those experiencing homelessness as part of a 16-24 week program. Participants learn how to sort and process the EPS in addition to learning construction skills when building tiny houses.

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      Finalists were chosen based on the following:

      • Innovative aspects or originality of the program or its effectiveness in improving existing methods of meeting the need, and the risks that were overcome in meeting the needs of users or the marketplace, 
      • Any relevant metrics, including number served, percentages of participation, contamination, etc.,
      • Unique qualities, including what was useful, unique, successful, or noteworthy about the nominee's efforts,
      • Other attributes

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