EPA awards $1.9 million grant to enhance recycling program in Hampton Roads

Published 10:51 am Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has allocated a $1,965,525 grant to the askHRgreen.org public awareness initiative. This grant aims to support the “Start Smart, Recycle Right” recycling education and outreach program in Hampton Roads. Funded through the federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the grant is part of a nationwide effort to improve recycling infrastructure and education for waste management systems.

Initiated in 2011, the askHRgreen.org campaign is managed by the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission with assistance from 17 regional cities and counties, and the Hampton Roads Sanitation District. The EPA grant will facilitate askHRgreen.org’s efforts to raise recycling awareness, educate residents on proper recycling practices, and enhance access to recycling information.

“Our region needs a culture shift in recycling behavior, and the EPA grant will help us elevate our ‘Start Smart, Recycle Right’ message,” stated Katie Cullipher, HRPDC Principal Environmental Education Planner. “With this funding, we’ll streamline messaging and make information more accessible to Hampton Roads residents.”

Email newsletter signup

Cullipher emphasized that “starting smart” involves mindful shopping, such as selecting recyclable packaging and avoiding single-use plastics. “Recycling right” involves placing only accepted items in recycling bins based on local guidelines.

To aid regional understanding of recyclable materials, askHRgreen.org provides an online Recycling & Disposal Lookup Tool. This tool specifies what can be recycled curbside and through drop-off programs in various communities.

With the EPA grant, askHRgreen.org plans to enhance this tool’s technology, making it more interactive and accessible. Over three years, the initiative will employ a comprehensive, evidence-based approach, including neighborhood recycling audits, targeted education, distribution of recycling cart stickers, development of web-based tools, mass media campaigns, and creation of educational materials.

In the coming months, askHRgreen.org will collaborate with 16 cities and counties in Hampton Roads to execute a multifaceted recycling education and outreach campaign running through May 2027. This effort will involve local recycling and waste management staff through the existing askHRgreen.org Recycling & Beautification Committee.

Wayne Jones, Community Outreach Coordinator for Suffolk Public Works, noted, “Locality-specific messaging causes confusion and contamination of the recycling stream. This EPA grant allows us to improve regional recycling information.”

Since the “Start Smart, Recycle Right” program began in 2021, the Recycling & Beautification Committee has faced resource limitations. Jones added, “The EPA grant provides the resources for effective change — a truly smart start.”