Environment & Sustainability Day for Leadership New Hampshire

April 26, 2023

NRRA Executive Director, Reagan Bissonnette, recently shared about participating in the Leadership New Hampshire Environment & Sustainability program day:

My presentation at the Leadership NH Environment and Sustainability program day was a blast! It was held at the Seashell Ocean Pavilion at Hampton Beach State Park. I've never been there, and we were in a second story room with lots of windows overlooking the ocean.
After Steve Poggi from Waste Management provided a national perspective on how we handle our waste, I spoke about trash, recycling, and food waste in NH and why it matters. I kept my remarks to 15 minutes, which left 30 minutes for a lively Q&A.

I emphasized the following three takeaways in my talk:

(1) Nearly 1/4 of all our municipal solid waste (trash from households, businesses, schools) by weight disposed nationwide is food waste. A shocking number even to me now!

(2) Waste reduction, like recycling and composting, is more financially valuable in NH because New England has the highest cost for trash disposal in the entire country.

(3) The chasing arrows aka "recycling symbol" does NOT mean something is recyclable - it is a clue that shows the plastic resin type. This last one resulted in horrified gasps from several attendees. When I gave the example that a plastic Dunkin iced tea cup with a lid and straw is trash, one person cried out "I've been recycling wrong my entire life!"

Throughout the presentation, I gave examples of where recyclables from towns represented in my class go (ex. Swanzey's cardboard goes to a paper mill in Claremont.) I also briefly explained the Solid Waste Working Group and how it's exploring possible solutions to increase diversion in NH, which includes looking at examples from other states.

Lastly, I shared six steps attendees could take to learn more and get more engaged in this issue, from easiest to most time-consuming:

We covered a lot of topics in the Q&A, including composting at home versus composting services (and how to compost at home, which most people know nothing about), is plastic film really recycled at grocery stores, batteries and their dangers (I urged someone with a "bucket" of batteries at home to please, please tape the ends), how to get producers to improve packaging, anaerobic digestion, mixed paper issues in New London, compostable packaging, and why private haulers in NH don't have to offer recycling services.
As people reflected on how little they knew about how to recycle, one classmate commented, "I feel like recycling needs a good PR team!" I told her we're working on it and mentioned the Recycle Right campaign and the brochures we're developing for towns. Someone from the City of Keene said he received a recycling magnet 20 years ago and still keeps it on his fridge as a helpful reference.

After my presentation, I'd estimate that at least 1/3 of my classmates came up to me after to rave about the presentation and conversation, which is a sign that people want this information and want to recycle more and recycle better. 

When my Q&A ended I invited my classmates to join me outside for a beach litter cleanup for the latter part of our lunch break, followed by a group photo for Earth Week. They agreed, and we mostly found small pieces of plastic on the windy beach and boardwalk. The second part of our day included a presentation about climate change by Cameron Wake of UNH (pictured) and the economic impact of climate change by Rob Werner from the League of Conservation Voters.


All around a great day sharing the highs and lows - tips and tricks - of recycling and solid waste diversion and management in New Hampshire!