A Model for Resident Education: Swanzey's Recycling Center Building Project

August 30, 2023

Have you ever wondered about the process to plan and update a transfer station? Well, NRRA municipal member town, Swanzey, NH, has been documenting their Recycling Center building project construction on their town website and Facebook page, as well as physical postings at the facility. Their consistent updates help to increase resident education and maintain public support by inviting residents to learn more about the improvements, including the planning, process photos, and how the updated Center will provide environmental and economically sound benefits to the entire town. 

The planning process took several years - starting prior to the COVID pandemic - and involved all stakeholders, including several conversations with NRRA's Member Services. The completed Recycling Center update will include 3 lanes for traffic - a "trailer lane" for elderly or disabled residents, or residents with a large amount of recyclables or non-sorted recyclables; a "fast lane" for residents who have already sorted their recyclables and can drop and go; and a "slip lane" for residents who do not have recycling with them.

Artist rendition of Swanzey's completed Recycling Center

In June 2023, Recycling Center Manager (and NRRA Board member), Josh Whipple, posted the following update to residents on the upcoming start of construction: 

"The construction of significant improvements at the Swanzey Recycling Center on Pine Street is expected to begin on July 5th and last through most of the rest of 2023. The Recycling Center has not seen major improvements for decades and the Town has been planning for and working on the redesign for several years. This project will make the Recycling Center a safer and more comfortable place for both residents and employees. It will also make the facility more flexible to be able to react to the recycling markets and ensure the Town is generating as much revenue as possible.

When completed, this project will provide residents with a 3-lane covered drive-through for protection from the elements year-round, more sorting windows, and an ADA compliant public restroom at the north end of the building. Changes include extending out the roof of the existing building to create a 3-lane drive through with a C&D, compost, and brush slip lane before the building. Moving the glass recycling station to the main building will prevent residents from crossing back and forth between vehicles. Recyclables will be pre-sorted and dropped off by residents into a series of bunkers and sorting stations."

Following updates included photos of the process, as well as a blurb on the construction company chosen to complete the work and how the project is being paid for, so residents are not left wondering how costs are being covered:

"The Board of Selectmen awarded this contract to TCD Construction of Peterborough using funds allocated to Swanzey under the American Rescue Plan Act, American Rescue Plan Act funds allocated to the Town from Cheshire County, the Recycling Center Capital Reserve Fund (which voters appropriate money to annually), and the Recycling Revolving Fund (which generates money from the sale of recycled materials)."

Process photos included context so residents knew what was being updated and remain excited and prepared for the changes to how they navigate the Recycling Center once the update has been completed.

Example from a mid-July update:

From a July to August update:

"The project is really starting to take shape! The steel has been erected, decking and supports welded, back filling to foundation, grading and insulation for the concrete slab, and a water line to run to the new part of the building from the well. Thank you for your patience and continued support!!"

From a mid-August update, you can also see how Josh highlights both what has happened AND what is happening next: 

From the most recent end-of-August update:

By posting updates consistently (every Friday during construction) with additional context and lots of photos, Swanzey is a model for resident education and involvement. Often times, residents don't necessarily want to change a town project, but do want to feel informed of the process and reasons why the project is happening. The consistent messaging also makes the inevitable change that will come with the new building easier on residents and staff alike, since a portion of residents will have stayed updated throughout the process and have a baseline understanding of the changes. 

The Town of Swanzey and Solid Waste Manager, Josh Whipple, should be commended not only on an environmentally and economically sound project, but also for putting in the work to increase public education about the project, which in turn builds public trust and openness to change. Well done!