Educating the public about how and what to recycle is an ever-present challenge for municipal solid waste departments.
In some places, MRFs themselves include sizable education centers. Elsewhere, an educator and public outreach coordinator is on a year-long experiment to see what types of waste are generated in the everyday life of a normal person.
But a town in N.J. is now using its fleet of recycling trucks themselves to try and spread the word to its residents.
While the Public Works Department intended to buy just another garbage truck to perform typical duties, officials found a way to involve the community to rally behind their newest initiative to actively have residences and businesses separate their trash and recycling. What started as adding a little flair to the Hino truck purchased from the H.K. Truck Center in South Plainfield, Middlesex County, grew into a student art project.
"I was sitting at home and I was thinking, 'Hmm, I wish there was something we could do to really get the community behind this,' " said David Smith, a member of the borough's Maintenance Department. "I mean, we had a few different designs drawn up already and it was good to go, but I felt like it could have been a little bit more."
Smith took the idea to Mayor Tom Harper and from there to the Borough Council, where officials decided that local children should create the design.
Harper approached Scott Larkin, principal of the New Hanover Township School, to have a group of students work on the garbage truck art.
Science teacher Teresa Peterla invited her sixth- and eighth-grade students to participate, with the top three receiving prizes and the No. 1 design being placed on the truck. The requirement for the contest and drawings was that it had to do with recycling, giving the students as much creative freedom as possible.
"I wanted the truck to be a rolling source of information on how to recycle and the importance of recycling," Peterla said. "Kids of this age really feel strongly about helping our planet, so it was a great topic for them. I asked all who were interested to meet me during their lunch and study hall period to submit ideas and draw them."