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SUBMITTED by Marjorie Torelli (21-Nov-2011)

Recycler of the Year Award – New York State Association for Reduction, Reuse and Recycling

Neal Walters, of Penn Yan, who served as Recycling Coordinator for the Western Finger Lakes Solid Waste Management Authority for 20 years, overseeing the curbside recycling programs for Wayne County and the operation of the Materials Recovery Facility (MuRF) was honored by the New York State Association for Reduction, Reuse and Recycling (NYSAR3) at its recent annual conference. NYSAR3 awarded Mr. Walters as Recycler of the Year – Lifetime Achievement. The citation honoring Mr. Walters stated that he “saw beyond the borders of the immediate county, recognizing that recycling is a program that is stronger when more materials can be moved through the system and to the end users. In order to promote more recycling and more efficient recycling, he developed relationships with people around New York State in both private companies and in municipal and county operations. Also recognizing that people are the most important part of any organization, Walters nurtured relationships with the workers at the MRF, developing and encouraging the talents and strengths of his workers, bringing people up through the system to positions of responsibility. In the words of someone familiar with the MRF operations, ‘Every successful recycling program needs a skilled operations manager – Neal did his job spectacularly.’”

Neal Walters, recycling coordinator (ret.) for the Western Finger Lakes Authority, accepting the Recycler of the Year - Lifetime Achievement Award from Kerri Scales, president of the New York State Association for Reduction, Reuse and Recycling. NYSAR3 is the state professional recyclers' association. The Award was presented at the 22nd Annual Recycling Conference held at the Otesaga Hotel, Cooperstown, NY, on Thursday, November 17.
Professional recyclers are a quiet group, often laboring behind the scenes to make sure that plastic, glass, metal, paper and organic material are put to another life rather than ending up in landfills or waste incinerators. Telling people with patience, good humor and creativity about diverting waste – no, wait, not waste, diverting valuable materials from an eternal tomb or the flames is definitely not a glamorous profession. The message sounds almost apocalyptic, and many recyclers have a preacher’s zeal.

Each year the New York State Association for Reduction, Reuse and Recycling (NYSAR3), the professional recyclers’ association for the state, recognizes a few of their members for their dedication, innovation, and passion for recycling. Members of NYSAR3 nominate their peers for the award. In the nomination they describe the extent of the nominee’s work and how it benefits both their local community and the wider population. Since recycling benefits the environment as a whole through the reduction of pollution and waste, recyclers’ work reaches far beyond their immediate location. In addition, NYSAR3 members share their techniques, successes and experiences with other recyclers so that successful programs can be replicated around New York State and beyond.

The class of the 2011 awardees includes two who are recognized for lifetime achievement, one team of recyclers, and one professional composter.

In addition to the easily recognized household recycling materials of paper, metal, and glass, NYSAR3 includes composting as an important element of the whole recycling picture. For the first time, the Recycler of the Year is a professional composter as well as a horticultural professional. Ken VanAlstine, Sr. of VanAlstine Nursery and Horticultural Services has been recycling organics for over 67 years. His nomination states, “There is no one that we can point to that has contributed more to recycling organics, or who has done it with so much joy and energy as Ken VanAlstine,” a wonderful tribute from those who have worked closely with VanAlstine over the years.

Recycler of the Year – Team is awarded to Dave Lupinski and Jamie Tuttle of Oneida-Herkimer Solid Waste Authority. They work on many projects that benefit not only their own counties, but other recycling programs. Their projects provide leadership and best-practices models. Both have been very willing and available to share their experiences, as well as taking leadership roles in NYSAR3. Through Lupinski’s and Tuttle’s efforts, Oneida-Herkimer has a great recycling website, a green team for schools, assistance for college composting programs, a comprehensive residential recycling program, commercial recycling programs, household hazardous waste collection…The list is extensive and enviable.

The second Lifetime Achievement Awardee is Lynn Leopold, who retired over a decade ago after serving as the City of Ithaca Recycling Education Coordinator and later as the Tompkins County Recycling Specialist for over two decades. Ms. Leopold was an early leader of the recycling movement in the state. She successfully encouraged the City of Ithaca to implement one of the first residential curbside recycling programs in the 1980’s. Lynn was extremely knowledgeable about the future possibilities for recycling and how recycling commodities are sold. Her greatest strength was in educating residents and businesses about how to recycle while working at the Tompkins County Solid Waste Division (TCSW). She was a dedicated NYSAR3 member and leader for several years and was instrumental in helping other communities to decrease their reliance on disposal. As a result of Lynn’s efforts, Tompkins County has achieved a waste diversion rate of 60% and has provided a successful countywide curbside recycle program since 1991.

Recycling professionals have relied for years on sharing their experiences and expertise to build strong, reliable programs. The individuals and team that NYSAR3 recognizes this year exemplify the innovation, creativity, dedication and generous sharing of many NYSAR3 members.

For more information about NYSAR3, check out the website, www.nysar3.org. For more information about the Western Finger Lakes Authority, please call 315.946.7650, or write mtorelli@co.wayne.ny.us or go to the website www.wfingerlakesauthority.org. Additionally, one can find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

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