Throughout the past seven years, Onondaga County Resource Recovery Agency (OCRRA) Recycling Specialist Ann Fordock has promoted waste reduction and improved recycling in Onondaga County, N.Y. From developing a year-round household hazardous waste drop-off program to helping manage the recycling efforts at the New York State Fair, Fordock is using her passion for the environment to ramp up recycling efforts throughout the State of New York.
Earlier this year, Waste360 presented Fordock with a Waste360 40 Under 40 award for her contributions to the waste and recycling industry. We recently sat down with Fordock to talk about how she got her start in the industry, what her role at OCRRA entails and how she has helped the New York State Fair improve its recycling efforts.
Waste360: How did you get your start in the waste and recycling industry?
Ann Fordock: I became aware of OCRRA in high school and in my 20s, I began turning to the agency’s website for information. I started gaining a passion for the environmental field and when my friend told me they were going back to college, they suggested that I go back as well. At the time, I had an associate’s degree and a job, but my sole purpose of going back to college was to get a job at OCRRA.
I ended up going back to college at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry, where I studied environmental studies and selected classes that would make me qualified to work at OCRRA when I graduated.
During college, I volunteered at OCRRA a little and afterward, while working at the USDA Farm Service Agency, I volunteered at every OCRRA event I could. It took me three years before I physically got my foot in the door at OCRRA, but it was worth it.
Waste360: What does your role as recycling specialist entail?
Ann Fordock: I wear a lot of different hats in my role, but one of my tasks is multifamily housing, which is reported to be the hardest sector. In addition to that, I am the main point of contact for our materials recovery facility (MRF) contract and all of our highway and Department of Public Works employees.
I also run some of OCRRA’s programs and events, including the Earth Day cleanup program, July battery collection program and mercury collection event. With the Earth Day program, we have more than 7,000 people who participate so it takes a lot of coordination and planning to make that one-day event run smoothly. With the battery collection program, residents can drop off batteries in our bins at the Wegmans grocery stores in our county anytime of the year, and during the month of July, our haulers include battery pickup in their curbside pickup services. Our mercury collection event is done in partnership with our waste-to-energy facility operator Covanta Holding Corp. If people bring in an old thermostat or thermometer, Covanta will give them $5. At our event that took place on August 15, Covanta increased the price to $10 to boost participation rates.
In addition to those responsibilities, I manage some of our purchasing and contracts. Those range from educational materials like magnets and brochures to e-waste vendors, hauler services and thousands of recycling bins. I manage the purchase, inventory, tracking and shipment of those recycling bins. Grant applications for blue bins, the household hazardous waste program, recycling and composting equipment are a part of my job as well.
I am also part of the D.C. Environmental Excellence External Review Committee. After winning the award in 2011, the committee now let’s me help judge the awards. The New York State Association for Reduction, Reuse and Recycling has also tasked me with becoming a glass expert, and I recently did a presentation on glass at the Federation of Solid Waste Conference.
Waste360: Tell us about how you have helped the New York State Fair ramp up its recycling efforts.
Ann Fordock: After years of struggling to try to increase recycling, new management came on board and they have embraced me in a way that I never saw happening. Over the past couple of years, I have worked hand-in-hand with the fair management to boost their recycling efforts. We hold green meetings to discuss the recycling goals and challenges, and I am currently trying to track the metrics to provide them with accurate recycling numbers so that we can set goals for the future.
The fair has a contractor that they bid out to do all the rides, and one of the things I am most proud of is that the fair management let me add waste and recycling language into that bid. With that, the contractor must place a recycling bin next to every trash bin. This effort has helped the fair increase its recycling efforts drastically.
In addition to that, I helped OCRRA get the manure and bedding from the state fair for our composting site, which we are hoping to eventually get a certification for organic use on the end product. It’s a great material for OCRRA, and a great solution to a waste problem for the New York State Fair.
Waste360: How did you help develop a year-round household hazardous waste drop-off program?
Ann Fordock: Before launching this program, we held three events a year. At those events, we heard feedback that residents wanted more than just three days to dispose of these items.
After doing some research, we found that a neighboring county was sending its residents to our vendor in Syracuse to drop off their hazardous waste items. We thought our residents might be on board with doing this as well since our county is closer to the vendor’s drop-off location. After speaking with the vendor, we agreed on a drop-off schedule, which is Monday through Friday from 6:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
To keep things organized for the vender, for us and for the residents, residents are required to fill out a data form and schedule an appointment for their drop offs. This helps inform both us and vendor about the hazardous items that are going to be dropped off throughout the day. This also helps us make sure that residents aren’t trying to bring something in that they aren’t allowed to dispose of.
So far, the program has been doing well. It’s an ongoing process, and things just keep improving.