thought-leadership Thought Leadership

October 23, 2023 / 4 minute read

Ohio EPA Awards Honor Environmental Impact of All Sizes

Written by Kristen Rinehart, Vice President and General Manager of Recycling 

Earlier this month as I was attending an awards banquet here in Columbus, that old cliché, “It takes a village,” came to mind. I was at the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency’s 2023 Encouraging Environmental Excellence (E3) Awards, where 48 businesses, cities and organizations across the state, including ADS, were honored.

That saying came to mind because in the case of combatting and solving the climate and environmental crisis, it was clear that it does take villages — and it also takes cities, counties, individuals, companies and educational institutions making these efforts for a common cause. What we saw from the EPA award honorees were both large and sometimes small efforts that add up to meaningful change.

There’s the City of Lakewood in northern Ohio, which offers its residents 100% clean energy options and has installed solar panels on several of its own facilities. There’s Hilliard Brown Elementary, in ADS’s headquarters community in central Ohio, which built its own rain and native plant gardens to educate students, with comprehensive food waste diversion and recycling programs. And Honda’s East Liberty plant, in western Ohio, which won Platinum recognition, and in a single year recycled more than 2.5 million tons of cardboard, more than 3.7 million tons of wood, more than 53,000 pounds of Styrofoam and more than 19,000 pounds of copper.

I was thrilled that ADS was among those honorees. As a company, we were  evaluated based on 15 environmental stewardship criteria that include pollution prevention, stormwater best management practices, sustainable materials, purchasing and others. I’m so proud to say that we received a Gold award, one of just six companies in the top two award categories.

My area, as VP and GM of recycling for ADS, falls under that sustainable materials category, and I’m so proud of the progress we continue to make in taking single-use plastics and utilizing them in our corrugated pipe stormwater solutions. In FY2023, for example, ADS recycled 540 million pounds of plastic and we’re well ahead of that number so far in FY2024.

We’ve achieved the progress we have on recycling in large part because we’ve been able to ramp up and expand our recycling efforts to include HDPE (high-density polyethylene) feed streams that we haven’t previously used. One way we’ve done that is by working with cities and municipalities that are looking for environmentally friendly ways to replace old infrastructure.

By working with municipalities,  we can recover infrastructure materials and convert these recycled materials into new stormwater pipes solutions. By doing so, these recycled materials remain in the circularity loop for years to come.

Thanks to great work from our materials scientists and engineers, we’re now able to take these obsolete or end-of-life infrastructure materials and give them a next life in new infrastructure – our plastic pipes – which manage stormwater and have another lifespan upward of 100 years. It’s gratifying to see the effort and capital investment ADS has put into sustainable materials sourcing, and it was rewarding to see the Ohio EPA recognize that effort with awards such as these.

Seeing some of those award winners on stage also reminded me that for organizations and cities of all sizes, environmental efforts start with a small group. Once that initiative or idea is operationalized, from there it so often becomes contagious and grows as others in the organization take notice. When we get that support and sometimes, funding, we are able to make a major impact.

 That, ultimately, is what we saw at the Ohio EPA E3 Awards. And I’d encourage those of you out there to take that first step in your company, your school or your town. Because, as we have seen, it truly does take a village. 



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