2024 Awards

34th Annual CRA Awards

Each year, the Carolina Recycling Association honors top performers that advance waste reduction and recycling in the Carolinas. The 2024 Awards recipients were honored at the Annual Conference in Cherokee, NC. 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 annual Volunteer Super Hero of the Year Award!

City of Asheville & Buncombe County Solid Waste – Food Scraps Drop-Off Program

The Food Scraps Drop-Off Pilot Program is a collaborative initiative between the City of Asheville Sanitation Division, City of Asheville Sustainability Department, and Buncombe County Solid Waste Services. The program is free to any resident of Buncombe County, which includes the City of Asheville.

In September 2021, the City of Asheville initiated the Food Scraps Drop-Off Pilot Program by opening the first drop-off location. The program was made possible by funding from the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Food Matters Southeast Cohort participation. The City partnered with Buncombe County to expand drop-off location access around the County. The second location opened at the Buncombe County Landfill in the following month. In the first six months, 41,780 lbs were collected at the two locations. Both the City and County developed and implemented web content to promote the program, social media posts to gain registrants, and held several successful in-person workshops.

As of January 2024, over 671,000 lbs of food scraps and other organics have been collected from roughly 3,700 participating households. With a County-secured grant from NCDEQ, the program has grown to eight locations. All locations are open daily and unstaffed. Registered participants have the option to pick up a free kitchen countertop tote to carry food scraps from home. The City and County have an interlocal agreement to share program promotion, logistics, cost, and communications responsibilities. The City handles customer service and maintains the sheds on two City-owned property locations, while the County handles the hauler and processor and maintains the other six locations on County-owned property. Hauling costs within City limits (6) are split evenly.

Both entities continuously promote the program while actively trying to improve it for participants.

Clemson University Recycling Services – Green Game

Clemson held its annual green football game on October 7 against Wake Forest. During this game Clemson tries to recycle as much as possible and report their numbers to the Collegiate Race to Zero Waste Touchdown Challenge. This year, Clemson partnered with Coca-Cola Consolidated to bring The Roadie, a portable MRF that allows sorting to be done right on sight, to Clemson.

They were able to play a 30 second video during the game that highlighted the partnership and the initiative and had over 30 student volunteers attend out large sorting event on Sunday after the football game. Clemson was able to recycle over 10,000 pounds of material from the game and determined that their first ever IN-STADIUM diversion rate which was just over 73%. The event was a huge success, and Clemson’s athletics department is now working towards formalizing a recycling program at all venues across campus. Go Tigers!

Reconsidered Goods – Trash Bash

In 2023, Reconsidered Goods launched a new program called Trash Bash with great success. Trash Bash is a collaborative Art Competition and Exhibition that takes Reconsidered Goods into the community at large by partnering with another organization or company in order to experience the creative process in a fun and exciting way using nontraditional, reused and repurposed materials.

The initial program was in partnership with the Greensboro Project Space, an off-campus branch of the university’s College of Visual and Performing Arts. Creative teams competed to build a site-specific installation sculpture using a variety of reused materials supplied by Reconsidered Goods.
Each team consisted of students, faculty, and community members.
Each team was randomly selected and met for the first time on opening night and worked on their collaborative artwork under a time constraint of 75 minutes, while spectators cheered them on.
Each team was assigned a specific area in the gallery to work and received a kit of repurposed materials, a list of challenges, and the opportunity to select a “mystery bin” to incorporate into their work.

Maker Mentors from the community participated as helpers to supply stabilizing hardware and construction assistance to all teams. A panel of judges selected the winning team, however each team received an original Reconsidered Goods trophy, a custom assemblage piece created by the Reconsidered Goods staff with all donated materials. The resulting artwork was on display for a few weeks at the gallery location in downtown Greensboro.

Since this initial program, Reconsidered Goods has 3 more Trash Bash events scheduled for 2024, one with a city organization, one with another area university, and one with Greensboro Project Space who had amazing turnout and feedback from the 2023 event!

Spectrum Center – Sustainability Efforts

Spectrum Center initiated several innovative reuse and waste reduction programs during their 23′-24′ Season. This year saw partnerships with Coke Consolidated, Innovation Barn, SpringClean, and the introduction of aluminum Ball cups into the arena instead of plastic cups!

  • Partnered with Coke Consolidated to get Every Bottle Back – Sending all of their plastic bottles and aluminum cans back to Coke. Added additional recycling bins around the building. In just the first 2 months, Spectrum Center sent back over 22,000 poundss of material.
  • Glass Recycling with Innovation Barn – All glass is staying in the Greater Charlotte area, instead of being shipped out. In 6 months, they have recycled over 10,000 pounds.
  • Textile Reuse – with SpringClean & Innovation Barn – Recycle old textiles from giveaways and events. Springclean uses the textiles in clothing reuse and to make new giftable items like teddy bears. Innovation Barn creates dog beds with these textiles. So far, almost 700 pounds of textiles have been recycled
  • Aluminum Cups – Introduced aluminum cups by Ball Corporation for beer to replace plastic cups. Can be recycled through Coke Consolidated program or guests can take home to reuse or recycle
  • Sustainability Luncheon – Pilot tested the R-Cup reusable cup system; brought in several vendors to highlight Spectrum’s Sustainability efforts; event was carbon neutral AND Zero Waste!

University of North Carolina at Wilmington – EPE Foam Recycling

UNCW Recyling is excited to announce the addition of a new plastic foam accepted for recycling.

Everyone is familiar with expanded polystyrene or EPS, incorrectly known as Styrofoam. You know that static-y white foam that disposable coolers are made from. The lovable little white beads that stick to every surface when you break it. Or that cup that holds the extra-large sweet tea you got from Bojangles on the way into work this morning. You get the picture, it is everywhere. Well, UNCW Recycling is delighted to say we have been recycling this material since 2019 and from our research, were the first public program in North Carolina!

Now UNCW has expanded their foam recycling program to include expanded polyethylene or EPE. They started this in early 2023 because they found this foam frequently contaminating our foam collection bins in their Public Recycling Depot. As good recyclers, they hated having to throw out this material. So, instead, they decided to put it to the test. Mr. Melty, their beloved Thermal Densifier, was successfully able to shred, heat, and compress this foam. UNCW then checked with CRC Recycling, formerly Carolina Recycling and Consulting, and successfully added that to the list of materials we send them.

In the past year, UNCW have made 1 pallet (4x4x1) of densified EPE ingots weighing over 800 pounds and they will be shipping it to CRC Recycling and assessing the market. The next steps will be to expand marketing and education about EPE recycling, as well as add signage to their foam bins. Go Seahawks!

Volunteer of the Year – Shannon Culpepper, Chatham County

Shannon Culpeper has been superhero volunteer to CRA for many years and she has always provided year-round behind the scenes support that drives CRA to our finest points. From her hard work on our committees to always finding a solution for everything it seems, Shannon has had our backs since the beginning. She is always willing give her time and never complain about the tasks that she takes on with a smile and determination to make them as perfect as can be. She truly understands the ins and outs of the CRA Conference and her support for the conference and all CRA events and tasks throughout the year is something that we would be lost without. Shannon is beyond deserving of this award and we cannot thank you enough for all of the things that you do!