At the recent Indiana Recycling Coalition (IRC) annual conference in Indianapolis, SGA’s Zero Waste program manager Jen Nelson presented on two panels —public space recycling and school waste reduction and composting in Illinois.

Jen talked about SGA’s Zero Waste Event Training and events in which we’ve been directly involved in zero waste planning and implementation. “A big part of planning and executing a zero waste event involved changing the way people think about garbage,” Jen told her audience, as she explained the importance of getting “the language of zero waste” right.

During the panel, “Best Practices in School Waste Reduction and Composting in Illinois,” Jen described SGA’s work helping schools move toward zero waste and developing programs for 25 Chicago Public Schools to reduce waste from their Breakfast in the Classroom program.

IRC plays host every year to the state’s premier sustainable materials management event and manages programs to help people in Indiana succeed in their recycling efforts. Its three-day conference included a trade show, a variety of breakout sessions, and an awards ceremony that featured the Dumpster Drummers, an educational performance group that uses the arts to teach children (and adults) about recycling and conservation.

Jerry Powell, executive editor of Resource Recycling based in Portland, Ore., gave this year’s keynote address, “Indianapolis Recycling at a Crossroads: The Local, Statewide and National Impact of this Decision,” which addressed the Coalition’s positions opposing the Indianapolis dirty MRF proposal that would allow residents to throw trash and recyclables into the same bin. Jerry also pointed to national recycling trends. “On Election Day more people recycle than vote,” he said. “Recycling is more popular than democracy!”

In general, Jen says, “There was a lot of excitement about all of the work in Indiana around recycling.” And with all the focus of late on food waste, she adds, “There also was a general feeling that food scraps are going to be next big resource to keep out of landfills.”

—Cassandra West