2023 Awards

33rd Annual CRA Awards

Each year, the Carolina Recycling Association honors top performers that advance waste reduction and recycling in the Carolinas. The 2023 Awards recipients were honored at the Annual Conference in Wilmington. Continuing this year, the award categories were consolidated into a general pool and a panel of judges selected outstanding people, projects, and/or programs to recognize. There were five nominees that rose to the top with creative and new ways to approach recycling and help improve the way recycling and waste reduction happens in the Carolinas!  CRA also awarded our annaul Volunteer Super Hero of the Year Award!

Carlos González García – “Serenity Mosaic Column” for Gaston County, NC

Keep Gastonia Beautiful were excited to create unique public art and educational opportunities for citizens and visitors to downtown near the new multi-use stadium.

The chosen artist, Carlos Gonzalez Garcia, created a mosaic column that truly embodies the mission of recycling and also understands the importance of showcasing Gastonia’s Bee City affiliation. The glass was provided directly from Strategic Materials’ Wilson processing plant.

Carlos spent many days in Gastonia, understanding the history and meaning for this art piece, even incorporating some of the architectural elements of downtown into the design. Carlos has a mosaic studio in Hillsborough, NC and has trained in Florence, Italy and Mexico City, Mexico.

Town of Cary – Permanent Food Waste Drop-Off Program

In February 2022, Town of Cary initiated a pilot program for a food waste drop-off area. It’s initial goal of collecting a minimum of 16 tons of food scraps in one-year resulted in an actual collection of 40 tons, exceeding the goal by 150%. It is open daily for citizens and free BPI certified bags are available to participants.

Cary developed a variety of outreach and education strategies for this initiative: shared monthly metrics on its open data portal. Updated and pushed waste reduction tips on the Cary Collects app. Developed a web page devoted to the initiative and robust outreach on social media, virtual and in-person workshops, and nearly a dozen events in the pilot year.

Cary staff is actively working on siting a second food waste drop-off to support citizens’ demand for this service and efforts to reduce waste.

Keep Durham Beautiful – Litter Kits in Schools Program

Keep Durham Beautiful’ s Litter Kits in Schools program began in March 2022 with the goal of fostering environmental responsibility and stewardship in Durham students by providing litter cleanup kits and an accompanying litter and waste reduction curriculum to 20 schools. Litter Kits in Schools provides materials for participating schools to combine the in-class curriculum with an outdoor service learning component. The kits are reusable, allowing the chance for all students at participating schools to benefit from the outdoor learning experience in a sustainable manner.

From March through December 2022, 1,970 students from twenty schools in Durham removed 7,714 Pounds of Litter from their school campuses and surrounding neighborhoods through the program. That’s enough litter to fill approximately five school busses!

The curriculum guide, developed in collaboration with the Clean Water Education Partnership, a program of the Triangle J Council of Governments contains activities aligned with 3rd-5th grade NC Science standards. Following the first three months of the program, 85% of the schools reported noticing a positive behavior change in their students.

Samantha Wooten – Operations Coordinator for ReSoil Compost

ReSoil Compost’s focus on educating the next generation with our BIO4EDU program is led by Operations Coordinator Samantha Wooten. Sam is an Environmental Science- Natural Resource Management graduate and has a background in Wildlife Management & Recycling. She joined ReSoil in the Spring of 2022 and alongside her other duties as Operations Coordinator, she provides support and leads interns from local colleges and tech schools. Sam brings focus to local community projects and demonstrates how to make an environmental impact, to not only sustain but replenish the Earth’s natural resources.

Sam’s passion for the environment led her to take the next steps in ReSoil’s mission to educate and provide compost to a variety of outlets. In 2022 she started working with USC Environmental students, establishing a program to compost student food waste from the campus cafeterias and Greek housing. Sam has held numerous community classes, either at ReSoil or at clubs and organizations, to teach people how to compost their own home waste. She has worked on local community clean up events and green space projects to provide gardens to low income housing residents to utilize for fresh food.

In addition, Sam’s dedication to increasing ReSoil’s social media presence has provided them with new followers wanting to see what she will add next through posts that are entertaining as well as educational. In 2022, ReSoil recycled over 8 million pounds of food waste, returning nutrients to our native soils and creating a more sustainable future for South Carolina.

Keep America Beautiful of Nash & Edgecombe Counties – Trash to Treasure Program

Noticing an increase in the amount of usable items sent to the landfill, Stephanie Collins, with Keep America Beautiful of Nash & Edgecombe Counties, created a Trash to Treasure Program. The purpose is to keep usable items out of the landfill, educate the public in the value of donating and to serve as a fundraiser for their local KAB affiliate.

Items are collected from abandoned, dilapidated or foreclosed properties with permission of the owners. Items are stored and sold annually in the fall via an online auction with proceeds going to expanding current or establishing new recycling events.

In 2021, $1,532 was raised, in 2022, $2,224 was raised! Plans are to use these funds for an additional truck added to their shredding event held annually on America Recycles Day in November.

Mecklenburg County – Enhanced Recycling Program

Enhanced Recycling is now offered at all Mecklenburg County, NC Full-Service Recycling Centers! The County utilized unique and cost-effective methods to be one of the first local government to have expanded recycling after the Pandemic. Enhanced recycling includes:

    • White Rigid Foam
    • Hard and Soft Back Books
    • Shredded Paper
    • Textiles

The County applied for a grant for a foam densifier and won that grant in early 2022. Program leaders came up with the idea of creating a media campaign around a foam eating dinosaur, called, Foam-a-Saurus Rex (Trademark pending). Staff then used old, out of service recycling collection containers and a clever paint scheme using the dinosaur.

The County utilized their partnership with the Center for Employment Opportunities group to repurpose out-of-service covered collection bins to collect foam materials. CEO only employs people that have recently been released from incarnation to provide working opportunities. They painted the old cans black to ready them for the new paint scheme.

During the first month of operation, 1,760 pounds of foam was accepted and processed. This equated to 10 30-yard cans.

Additionally, separate gaylord boxes are used for collection of hard and soft back books and shredded paper. Special enclosed textile bins are used for that collection activity. They are averaging 12 shredded paper gaylords per month and 14 gaylords of book. They work with a local re-use book group to re-use as many books as possible.

Volunteers of the Year – Shannon Caveny-Cox, UNC Charlotte & Chris Johnson, Winthrop University

Shannon Caveny-Cox and Chris Johnson have both been superhero volunteers to CRA for many years and they always provide year-round behind the scenes support that drives CRA to our finest points. They are both outstanding individuals who never complain about the tasks that they take on and they are always willing to go more than the extra mile to help CRA succeed in multiple ways and save the organization money with their high tech skill sets. Both of these superheroes truly understand that the conference and other CRA activities are only possible through teamwork, dedication, and lots of love and care, not to mention that they work extraordinarily hard all year organizing over 80 speakers and presentations. Shannon and Chris are so deserving of the Volunteer of the Year award and are always there to lend a helping hand – especially during those last minute or unexpected times. Thank you for everything both do, Shannon and Chris!