2020 National Association of Counties (NaCo) Award for Battery Campaign: Don’t Ignite, Recycle Right, for “Sustainability and Innovation”
Batteries are ubiquitous in our daily lives, but it’s not always clear how to dispose of them correctly. The amazingly convenient lithium battery holds a lot of power to keep our electronics charged for hours. Unfortunately, when damaged by improper handling or excessive heat, they also hold enough power to ignite unexpectedly and rapidly (up to 1000 degrees Fahrenheit!). Too many of these lithium batteries end up in curbside recycle bins and pose a fire threat to drivers collecting the bins, recycling center operators, and sorting machines in the recycling center.
To help spread awareness and educate the community of this danger, a battery campaign committee was formed within the Resource Conservation Division (RCD). The committee created a communications toolkit that included a Battery Campaign website (boco.org/batteries), original content for advertising, a logo, educational materials such as guides and brochures, social media posts, and other outreach materials. We also hosted a free battery collection event for residents and new businesses on America Recycles Day where we collected over 1,300 pounds of batteries in just one day! The well-received outreach/education campaign which included a battery taping guide, was shared with community partners, circulated at a national hazardous materials conference, and requested to be re-distributed by several other sectors and partners. In 2019 alone, we collected 57,417 pounds of batteries, a 215% increase from 2018 collections.
2020 NaCo Award for Boulder County Fair Zero Waste Initiative, for “Sustainability”
The Zero Waste (ZW) Initiative at the Boulder County Fair represents the most substantial ZW effort conducted by the county. The fair is the largest event held on county property, bringing in over 150,000 attendees throughout the 10-day event. The Resource Conservation Division (RCD) leads the ZW Initiative, which focuses on three key objectives to attain the greatest rate of waste diversion: education and outreach, requiring food vendors to serve ZW certified food service ware, and installing effective ZW infrastructure throughout the Fairgrounds.
RCD set a goal to exceed the 2018 diversion rate at the fair by 10% in 2019. In doing so, we increased education and outreach efforts, updated existing infrastructure, implemented new infrastructure, refined vendor and volunteer training materials, and increased volunteer recruitment and participation. As a result, the ZW Initiative at the 2019 fair far exceeded our goal by attaining an overall diversion rate of 49% — a 16% increase from 2018. The 2019 diversion rate amounts to 16,461 pounds of material saved from a wasted fate in a landfill. This diversion achievement saved approximately 470 gallons of gasoline, 48 trees, 19,950 gallons of water, 1,083 gallons of oil, 3,591 miles driven, and 11,685 Kilowatt hours of electricity from being used. In addition, another 144,980 pounds was diverted by reusing manure and animal bedding used at the fair.
2020 NaCo Award for vapeAWARE campaign, for “Innovation and Sustainability”
2020 Pinnacle Award for vapeAWARE campaign, for “Sustainability”
You’ve seen it in the news and heard it on the radio, youth vaping is prevalent across the nation and in Boulder County. Vaping devices contain batteries, that, if not disposed of correctly, can be a dangerous environmental hazard. They also contain nicotine, a chemical that is harmful to health and our environment. In 2019, the Hazardous Materials Management Facility (HMMF) expanded proper vaping device disposal efforts to youth and schools. HMMF worked in partnership with a variety of community partners to create environmental impact messaging geared towards youth and to implement a disposal protocol for schools who have tobacco- and nicotine-related waste. This shift to expanded services was a result of an identified community need. As vaping devices were being used or confiscated on school property, we heard that waste would often pile up in a box under the principal’s desk, fill a desk drawer in the nurse’s office, be found littered on school property, or become an overflowing nuisance for the School Resource Officer.
Together, the Resource Conservation Division’s HMMF staff, Boulder County Public Health’s Tobacco Education and Prevention Partnership (TEPP), and representatives from the Environmental Services and the student health staff from Boulder Valley School District (BVSD) informed, created, and implemented a disposal protocol for tobacco and nicotine waste.
The goals of this project were to:
- Increase disposal access to Boulder County residents,
- Increase knowledge of safe storage and handling practice,
- Increase disposal access and create disposal guidelines for Boulder County school districts,
- Increase support of tobacco-free schools policy implementation and enforcement, and;
- Increase awareness of environmental impacts from tobacco and nicotine products.
Our collaborated efforts led to:
- Creating safe storage and handling guidelines for schools,
- Implementing school disposal guidelines in BVSD,
- Providing 29 disposal bins to BVSD middle and high schools and two transportation depots with funding supported by BVSD, TEPP, and the HMMF,
- Designing two new educational resources for students and teachers in English and Spanish, which were shared with all middle and high schools,
- Disseminating these resources and a vaping toolkit with BVSD, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE), and various school districts in Colorado, and;
- Building a tracking method for materials disposed of at the HMMF.
- In 2019, we shipped over 2,500 vaping devices (103 pounds) and 161 e-liquid containers (16 pounds) from businesses and residents at a combined cost of $2,711 (paid for by businesses and HMMF).
This project also inspired other communities and statewide partners to replicate similar partnerships and explore the implications of these devices from a regulatory perspective. Our efforts to address this nationwide concern also garnered attention from Colorado Public Radio (CPR) and National Public Radio (NPR). As a result, we’ve received inquiries from folks around the nation for advice as others build their own disposal guidelines. The story ran on CPR, which has a listenership of 480,000 per week, and NPR Morning Edition, which has a listenership of 13 million listeners daily. Read the article.