When thousands of people flock to Greenbelt’s annual Labor Day Festival, the pile of trash they produce can be formidable, city officials say.
“We know that more trash is produced [during the four-day festival] than usual,” said Luisa Robles, the city’s recycling coordinator — given all the disposable plate, cups, silverware, wrappers, ride tickets and fliers passed out all around the Roosevelt Center in historic Greenbelt.
Since 2010, members of the city’s Advisory Committee on Environmental Sustainability — or Green ACES, as they’re known around town — have been and continue to try to reduce the amount of waste produced by the festival. The committee asks vendors to switch to all-recyclable dinnerware and recruits volunteers to stand guard over trash cans to tell visitors what can and cannot be recycled.
Green ACES advises the mayor and City Council on environmental issues, a job that is not taken lightly in the earth-conscious neighborhood of historic Greenbelt, said John Lippert, Green ACES chairman.
During the 2011 Labor Day Festival — the only year for which Green ACES collected data — more than 8,200 pounds of recyclables were collected, said Lippert, adding there is a lot of room to improve.
“Just about everything they’ll use is recyclable,” Lippert said.
Each ton of trash bound for a landfill costs the city $59, while recycling can bring in from $150 to $800 per month, depending on the volume and type of material recycled, Robles said. The city’s 23,000 residents produced 1,591 tons of trash in fiscal 2011, meaning the city spent nearly $94,000 to send trash to a landfill.
Campaigns, such as the Labor Day effort, to educate the public on how to recycle have paid off in the city, with between 55 and 60 percent of all waste being diverted from landfills to recycling centers, Robles said. She attributes the success to an easy, no-sort process for residents, as well as efforts to educate them.
“We started using social media much more, and we have more active campaigns at festivals,” Robles said. “Whenever we can do educational campaigns, we try to do that.”
The city’s department of Public Works is teaming up with Green ACES to distribute information in the form of recyclable fliers with pictures of objects that are and are not recyclable, which will be available at the festival.
“In the past, we’ve only been able to talk to a small portion of people,” Lippert said, adding this year he would like volunteers at each of the 20 pairs of trash cans and recycling bins, each wearing green pendants or pins. “Most people, it seems like, don’t know you can recycle a paper plate. It’s hard to change people’s attitudes and hard to educate people.”
Those interested in volunteering can contact Robles at firstname.lastname@example.org or John Lippert, at email@example.com.