Christy Dixon Recycler of the Year Award
Rick Meyers, City of Milwaukee
In February 2011, when the governor proposed to not only defund recycling, but also rescind the landfill bans, many of us were angry, frustrated and wanted badly to “storm” the capitol in defense of recycling. However, it was Rick Meyers who brought a semblance of calm, deliberate decisiveness that helped us all pull back from anger and forward with a plan to save Wisconsin’s recycling program.
It wasn’t long before the “Fab Four” (AROW, Council on Recycling, SWANA, WCSWMA) began its work. We gathered information, developed plans and finally executed them. Rick’s ability to stay on task, to not allow a legislator to pivot away from the issue at hand and at his ability to think on his feet, was instrumental and marvelous to watch. He never appeared ruffled or frustrated. His professionalism was beyond reproach and he helped to frame the Fab Four as a dignified, expert and determined group accepting nothing but success in completing our mission to save recycling.
Rick has spent his career on waste reduction and recycling efforts. Starting in 1999 Rick began his career at Kirkwood Community College as an “area resource specialist” working to find options to disposal for industrial wastes and also building waste diversion plans for businesses. Eighteen years later Rick now serves as the city of Milwaukee’s sanitation service manager, coordinating not only the state’s largest recycling program, but also overseeing the launch of the city’s organics collection and composting program. Rick and his staff work to provide a broad recycling and waste reduction education and outreach program to the most culturally and economically diverse city in Wisconsin…a challenge that Rick and his staff embraces with thoughtfulness and creativity.
After his appointment to the Governor’s Council on Recycling in 2008, Rick worked with fellow Council members on issues of statewide relevance, providing both Governors Doyle & Walker recommendations to strengthen and expand Wisconsin’s Recycling Program. In 2011 Rick was elected as chair of the Council and led an effort to explore a wider array of options for the recycling of plastics.
Rick has taught us that staying the course with advocacy, even when frustrating political winds are smashing against you and toppling roadblocks at your feet, doesn’t necessarily mean upping caustic rhetoric. We've learned that being assertive doesn’t have to mean being untenably aggressive. We've learned that even when it appears the battle is lost, the war is not over. Rick Meyers is the kind of person for whom the Christy Dixon award was made.
Outstanding Achievement in Recycling Education Award
Rob Michitsch, University of Wisconsin Stevens Point
Rob Michitsch is a professor of Soils/Plant Analysis, Biogeochemisty, Solid Waste Management, and Composting at the University of Wisconsin Stevens Point. Since 2009, he has been an incredible help and inspiration to hundreds of students desiring to succeed in the waste management profession. In his classes, Rob stresses the importance of viewing waste as a resource rather than something to be disregarded and discarded. By incorporating the importance and benefit of waste reduction, reuse, recycling, and composting in his curriculum, Rob instills a sense of relevance and excitement in students to push the industry past its current bounds. He also influences students to broaden their scope by considering topics from small scale personal waste production to the broad concept of international waste management.
Rob does more than his share to give students opportunities outside of the classroom. As an academic advisor and a professor for student interns, Rob promotes education through experience. Rob is continuously watching for opportunities to pass along to students in the waste field and even takes the time and effort to reach out to individual students when he discovers relevant opportunities for them specifically. Through his continued efforts, Rob has been an invaluable asset to countless students as they pursue their degrees in waste management at UW Stevens Point.
On a local community level, Rob has made and incredible connection between the university (UWSP) and the Stevens Point / central Wisconsin area. Prior to Rob’s involvement there had been very little community interaction. Rob is very willing to share his knowledge and connections to businesses, nonprofits and local governments. He also requires students from his higher-level waste management class to work on real-life projects for local communities or businesses.
Outstanding Achievement in Recycling Award
Sparta High School Earth Club
The students of the Sparta HS Earth Club/Polar Bear Club researched and raised the funds to purchase an Ecovim Digester to assist with their food waste reduction project. This is a food waste dehydrator/composter that converts food waste into clean water and a dry soil amendment. Quoting Joe Cook, the club advisor, “The community outreach grew legs like a giraffe.” The students provided the education and labor for the disassembly line under the watchful guidance of citizen volunteers. The students named the equipment “Big Chuck” after the lead maintenance man Chuck, who continues to be very supportive of this project. The School Board and the school administration are also very supportive of this project. To keep the Ecovim equipment operating at full capacity in the summer months, the school accepts food waste from Hansen’s IGA grocery store chain. The students provide tours and give presentations about the project. They also sell the soil amendment created and allow teachers to use the money to purchase warm winter gear for needy students. They have raised over $1,000.00 selling the amendment.
Other achievements of the Earth Club include:
outstanding Achievement: Student
Alex Thomas, UWSP Student
Alex Thomas, is a Biology and Waste Management double major at UWSP, with minors in Sustainable Energy and Soil Science. Alex takes on his impressive academic career in conjunction with his ongoing work and involvement with the campus’ Student Government Association. During his time at UWSP, Alex has been very involved in research,the campus Greenfund, student organizations, and volunteer activities. When it comes to Alex’s recycling vision, this was his response: "My vision for recycling is to make it become the easiest end of life choice for consumers. I want to see it become the integrated normal so that landfilling what is in our waste stream is the exception, not the normal." As well, while acting as the Sustainability and Waste Systems Intern for the Milwaukee County Zoo this past summer, Alex set and then met a goal to implement procedures at the zoo to compost 150 tons of animal waste per year.
Overall, Alex is very motivated to make changes in the recycling and solid waste management arena. He is also very motivated to educate others and improve recycling and solid waste management wherever he can. He is a focused person that constantly performs his work to the highest level and impacting any community he becomes a part of.
Outstanding Achievement in Recycling: Youth Emerging Leader
Certificate of Recognition to: Jackson Pauls
Jackson Pauls, a 9-year old from Eau Claire, WI. To the untrained eye Jackson seems like a normal kid, but to those who have had the privilege to get to know him can testify he is anything but normal. When Jackson plays baseball his eye is not only on the ball but on the lack of recycling receptacles at the local parks. Most kids would shrug it off and toss their empty Gatorade bottle into the trash, but not Jackson. Instead he has raised the issue of no recycling with the City of Altoona and met with the City’s Park and Recreation Department, Eau Claire County Recycling, and Boxx Sanitation to come up with a solution to get recycling at the local parks.
At first the City of Altoona was reluctant, but this didn’t stop Jackson. He began saving his own money, getting offers from companies to supply recycling bins, and after constant meetings with the Parks and Recreation Department, he was able to prompt the department to contact vendors to get a discount by using Jackson as their reasoning for needing one. Jackson has also convinced the City of Altoona to start small. They will start with a pilot program for the 2017 summer season. He will continue to fight for permanent recycling bins at local parks and is now encouraging the youth basketball organization to switch to cans instead of plastic bottles due to the lifespan of a recycled can, which can be recycled endlessly.
CLICK HERE for full 2017 Awards Press Release
CLICK HERE for a listing of past Award Recipients.