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County shines when it comes to waste

For the seventh consecutive year Kitsap County has been recognized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as the 2007 EPA WasteWise Program Local Government Partner of the Year.

“This is a big honor,” said WasteWise Coordinator Vicki Bushnell. “When we implement a program and people from all over the country are asking us how we did it we know we are making progress. And it is a nice way to end the year, being called a model for other counties.” 

The EPA granted the award to Kitsap County due to its sustained commitment to waste reduction. Kitsap County sets an example for other local governments and provides technical assistance to local government agencies, cities, and counties throughout the United States.

In 2006, Kitsap County saved over $450,000 by recycling paper products, food containers, tires, asphalt, organics, and reusing asphalt and road sand. The county also recycled fluorescent lights, batteries and biosolids and over 11,000 pounds of electronic equipment.

Considering the prevailing budget crisis, the program’s savings were an essential part of achieving a balanced budget.

Kitsap County joined WasteWise in 1999, and has been recognized during every year of its membership. The EPA maintains that the over 1,800 WasteWise Partners not only reduce waste but also are addressing global climate change. By decreasing the demand on raw materials through waste reduction and recycling organizations improve their operations, reduce costs, and minimize their environmental footprints.

In Kitsap County, each department has nominated a WasteWise coordinator who develops a conservation strategy for the individual office. This ranges from consolidating forms to eliminating fax cover sheets. Some departments post schedules to the Internet rather than distributing written documents.

Bushnell said that one practice that has taken hold across all departments is using double-sided copying. Another county-wide procedure is how to deal with junk mail, which can often be out of the recipient’s control.

The waste exchange program is another money-saver, as it allows departments to post notices about the equipment they no longer use or need to procure. In many cases, one department’s waste becomes another’s essential supplies.

“Everyone comes up with their own ideas,” Bushnell said. “And receiving the awards have made us feel positive and proud of our efforts. It has elevated us, and the employees love the recognition.” 

The EPA gave Kitsap County the award on Monday night, at the regular meeting of the County Commissioners.

“Kitsap County is continually looking at ways of improving how counties deal with their waste,” said EPA spokesman Tony Brown. “All across the country counties are having to find ways to save money. So Kitsap has been able to improve how everyone is doing business.”

“We are not a huge county with a huge staff,” Bushnell said. “We are medium-sized, but we can show all counties how they can create a program without having a lot of resources. We can help big companies and counties be more efficient, and play a role in mentoring those with less resources than we do.”

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