Patricia Neary –Bridgewater Tree Committee, Bridgewater Green Committee, NAFT, BIA
Pat Neary is a tireless advocate for nature, addressing issues from litter and pollution to the preservation of our natural world. She is not just a force of nature; she is a force for nature. I had the privilege of working closely with Pat when we co-founded the “Bridgewater Green Committee” to promote sustainable living in our community. Pat’s determination led us to public events like the 4th of July parade, where we made a memorable statement with plastic bags on our heads and a prominent banner. We also engaged with the community at the local farmers’ market and gained traction on social media.
Pat’s networking prowess was pivotal. She secured a table at FallFest, enabling us to connect with diverse individuals and organizations, championing causes like an expanded bottle bill and styrofoam elimination. Pat orchestrated “Bag It” documentary screenings at the Bridgewater Public Library, even bringing the film’s costume to life, leaving a lasting impact on library-goers. Despite challenges, Pat’s determination remained unwavering. She organized meetings with advocates from towns that successfully banned plastic bags, fostering collaboration and resolve. After nearly five years of relentless effort, we achieved a majority vote to ban plastic bags in Bridgewater, largely thanks to Pat’s leadership and unwavering dedication as an environmental champion.
Girl Scout Troop 64918 – Girl Scouts of Central and Western Mass.
Parade floats are great ways to celebrate, but many pay a lot for items they throw out right after the parade. The cadette girls of Troop 64618 were tasked to do a float for the girl scouts. Thinking ahead after a recent “me and my guy” dance, they collected the flower decorations after the event. The leader that had the truck and float became the location for the decorating and un-decorating. I think the location is key.
All that was spent was on zip ties and safety pins. The only things thrown out were the cut zip ties. Reuse was key and new relationships were formed. After the parade, the girls were gentle with the items to be stored to be used again. The paper flowers and brown craft paper were collected and brought to the coordinator who runs the indoor project graduation event. For the Graduation Project, they decorate the High School with Around the Word themes and hold activities as an alternative for graduating seniors from organizing drinking parties. The flowers and paper have already had 2 activities and could have 2-5 more. Anew partnership was made that hinges on shared reuse.
Neil Rhein – Keep Massachusetts Beautiful
Neil Rhein, Executive Director of Keep Massachusetts Beautiful (KMB), created the Talking Trash & Recycling program to enhance recycling education without competing with local Recycling Coordinators. This interactive presentation educates residents, employees, and students about waste management in Massachusetts. Neil’s presentations encourage reducing trash generation and improving recycling habits, promoting a more sustainable lifestyle while helping the state meet waste reduction goals. The program lasts 45 minutes, with additional time for questions. Initially targeting local students in Mansfield, Neil expanded the program with a MassDEP grant in 2020. When COVID hit, he transitioned to Zoom presentations. Amidst widespread recycling misinformation, this program is essential. Neil’s commitment to spreading it statewide is commendable for maintaining recycling as a sound waste management option.
Neil has already reached over 1,300 people with the program, disseminating accurate recycling information. Recordings are available to the public, and Neil continues to schedule customized Zoom or in-person presentations. He deserves special recognition for his tireless leadership, initiative, and knowledge-sharing, contributing to recycling, reuse, and waste reduction in Massachusetts.
Sue Higgins – Northeastern University
Sue Higgins, the Director of Materials and Recycling at Northeastern University, manages sustainability initiatives on a vast campus of over 35,000 students and staff. Her work includes data collection to enhance material diversion, expanding residential composting to multiple dorms, launching a battery recycling program with 20 collection bins, and extending plastics recycling efforts beyond bottles and containers, including lab plastics.
Sue’s commitment also extends to community involvement. She supported Trash2Treasure, a student group diverting useful items during Move In/Move Out, and successfully added foam mattress toppers to the collection, recycling 660 pounds of foam. She was a member of the Beverly Waste Reduction Committee and played a pivotal role in reviving the “College Collaborative” group in partnership with MassRecycle, advocating for educational institutions’ membership and creating a platform for collaboration, networking, and shared best practices.
Sue’s passion for sustainability and waste reduction, coupled with her dedication to collaboration and mentoring, makes her a catalyst for positive change in her workplace, community, and the recycling community at large.
Fawaz El Khoury – CMRK
Fawaz El Khoury has built a business that not only helps the environment, but also gives back to people. CMRK partners with nonprofits to help them receive unrestricted funding. Through CMRK, and out of his own generosity, Fawz has given back over $25 million dollars to nonprofits. He is not only generous, but a steward of the environment. He enables municipalities to divert tons of useful materials from their waste; not just clothing but also books and household items. These items are sent to thrift stores in areas that need them. This strategy serves multiple populations and keeps useful goods out of landfills. He treats all towns the same regardless of size. Every municipality is important to Fawz and he truly sets the tone at CMRK from the top. He treats others with respect and kindness.
Fawaz does not want recognition but he is one of the most generous people I have ever met. He treats employees like family and truly cares about others. He is an Ellis Island Award recipient; an award given to those who make it their mission to give back to those who are less fortunate. He has employees who have worked for him nearly 30 years. He is as loyal to them as they are to him. He donates clothing and food to areas struck by disasters without promoting himself or allowing recognition. He acts with generosity and integrity.
Fawaz is an amazing businessman, boss, mentor, friend and deserves recognition for his impact in Massachusetts.
Nicholas Parlee – Town of Winchester
Nick has managed the Winchester Transfer Station for the last four years, prior to which he served as the Solid Waste and Recycling Coordinator / Energy Manager for the Town of Chelmsford. Nick has made significant contributions to the Town of Winchester’s Transfer Station. Serving about 5,000 households, he updated the composting program, improved diversion rates, and expanded recycling streams, including food waste processing, textiles, and waste ban items.
In 2020 – 2021, Nick led an effort to enhance the facility, addressing operational deficiencies and layout issues, resulting in a $6.5 million improvement project. Despite construction challenges, he maintained uninterrupted service. Nick collaborated on a new facility layout for increased safety, added recycling compactors, and created space for commercial recycling drop-off operations. The project also featured a new staff building, stormwater improvements, and additional storage areas. Nick’s leadership and commitment have been instrumental in improving the Transfer Station, ensuring its efficiency, safety, and sustainability for Winchester.
Laurel Hanke – Newburyport City Hall
Laurel Hanke has devoted nine years to the Newburyport Recycling, Sustainability, and Energy Department, consistently demonstrating trustworthiness, adaptability, a strong work ethic, and remarkable patience. Her ability to assist residents with recycling-related inquiries and concerns leaves them at ease, fostering open communication for further questions and waste reduction concerns.
Ms. Hanke’s role as a supervisor at the Colby Farm Lane Recycling Center is especially commendable. She oversaw a program that provided job opportunities for individuals with disabilities, empowering them with valuable skills and work experience. Over the years, these young adults have grown, taking on more responsibility at the Recycling Center, thanks to Laurel’s mentorship. Under her guidance, they have honed essential social and professional skills.
The Recycling Center’s ongoing success, which benefits both residents and businesses in Newburyport, is a testament to Laurel’s dedication and exceptional leadership.
Gary Bernhard – Shutesbury Recycling & Solid Waste Committee
Gary Bernhard, a dedicated volunteer, has been an integral part of the Shutesbury Recycling and Solid Waste Committee (RSWC) since 1989, a year after its formation. He has served as the Recycling Coordinator for over twelve years, despite the small stipend that doesn’t cover the substantial time and effort he invests. Under Gary’s leadership, the RSWC has achieved multiple milestones including a town-wide recycling program, which evolved into curbside pickup of recyclables, and implementing Pay As You Throw, which resulted in consistently high recycling rates. Gary secured grants, notably one for solid waste hauler contract preparation. He also obtained funding for recycling bins, compost bins, educational literature, and more, including the Recycling Almanac (now digital).
Gary’s contributions extend to organizing Bulky Waste Collection days and negotiating access to the Leverett Transfer Station, benefitting both Shutesbury and Leverett residents. He facilitated composting workshops, educational events, and addressed resident complaints on collection days. His dedication shines through his Trash Talk newsletter column, focusing on critical topics like recycling symbols on plastics. In response to bans, he introduced a textile bin and arranged mattress disposal solutions in neighboring towns. The breadth and extent of hard work, leadership and creative problem solving that Gary has provided over decades makes him an ideal candidate for this MassRecycle Individual award.
Patrick Conaway – Keep Natick Beautiful, Big Heart Little FeetBig Heart Little Feet
Pat Conaway is the founder of Big Heart Little Feet, an organization dedicated to promoting environmental stewardship and community involvement. Over the years, he has led over 50 clean-up efforts involving neighbors, youth groups, and volunteers to restore local waterways and trails. Pat’s commitment extends to establishing a Trail Work initiative on Mondays and Wednesdays, engaging more volunteers in trail maintenance and connecting them with larger watershed conservation.
His impact spans across Natick, Framingham, Wayland, and Cochituate State Park, where he has installed trash and recycle bins at key locations. Pat collaborates with high school environmental clubs, involving them in various projects, from clean-ups to rain garden initiatives. He also plays an active role in the Natick Trails Maintenance Committee, focusing on local trail improvement. Pat’s dedication extends beyond local communities. He coordinates the Natick Earth Day Festival Planning Group, serves on the Wayland Green Team, and was nominated for the Mass Recycles “Massachusetts Recycler of the Year Award.” Together with concerned citizens from Wayland, Framingham, Natick, and Ashland, he formed the Lake Cochituate Watershed Council.
For over fifteen years, Pat has run the “Buddy Bins” program in Natick, Framingham, Wayland and possibly other places, he has organized clean ups all over, bringing groups of kids, involving companies, and other affinity groups. He has also played the Bag Monster at many events and contributed to a real culture change with all age groups. He is an example of conviction, endurance, and inspiration to all of us!
Tristyn Campbell – Tantasqua Junior High School
Tristyn has been an avid participant in my Recycling Club during his two years at Tantasqua Regional Junior High School. He has shown up every other Tuesday (sometimes more) to circulate across the three floors of our building’s classrooms to remove as much recycling as he can. While our club doesn’t often draw a large number of participants, his consistency helped contribute to building-wide consistency with using recycling bins and reducing waste from our two offices, and over 50 classrooms. Since teachers and office staff knew to expect him, their was less waste being thrown away, and more being recycled.
Matthew DeMarrais – Needham DPW
As the Superintendent of Needham DPW’s Recycling and Solid Waste division, Matt leads by example with his actions day in and day out. He actively engages with residents, discussing recycling and the importance of reducing our carbon footprint. Under his guidance, the Recycling and Transfer Station serves 14,819 households in Needham.
This past year, the station recycled 481 tons of Commingle, 726 tons of Paper, 403 tons of Cardboard, and 326 tons of Single stream. They diverted and recycled 762 tons of scrap metal, 20+ tons of mattresses, 50 tons of textiles, and 60+ tons of electronic waste. Moreover, the station produced over 3,000 tons of organic material, turning it into compost distributed free to residents. Matt’s initiatives have reduced waste and increased recycling in the town. He educates young minds through Boy Scout and Girl Scout tours of the RTS facility and implemented a successful Food Waste diversion program, diverting over 80 tons last year and 150 tons this year.
Matt goes the extra mile: removing contaminants from recycling containers, ensuring the Swap Shop runs efficiently and moving it indoors for better preservation. He actively spreads awareness through local news coverage and participates in the Needham Solid Waste & Recycling Advisory Committee, contributing innovative ideas and recycling practices. Matt’s leadership and dedication to recycling and solid waste make him a deserving nominee for recognition.
Shyan Ong, a Wakefield resident and dedicated parent of two elementary school children, launched a composting and food rescue program for school lunches. Initially initiated in 2020 but halted by the pandemic, Shyan resurrected the project in the ’22-’23 school year, partnering with the Wakefield Environmental Sustainability Committee to include two elementary schools: Walton and Greenwood.
Driven by her passion t, Shyan, a non-committee member, implemented a system with three waste disposal options: trash for wrappers, compost for food scraps, and a cooler for unopened food rescue. She created educational signage, provided hands-on guidance during lunch periods, and organized the pickup of rescued food for local Boys & Girls Club afterschool programs. Initially, she handled pickups personally twice a week until recruiting volunteers to assist.
Shyan plans to expand the program to the town’s other two elementary schools in the coming months. Her initiative has diverted around 4,000 pounds of food waste from landfills, composted with Black Earth Compost, and collected 5,000 items for afterschool programs and local food banks.
Rene Wood – Town of Sheffield, MA
Rene Wood, the Town of Sheffield’s dedicated recycling coordinator for four years, has made a significant impact on waste diversion efforts. Raised in a family that valued waste reduction, Rene carried these lessons into her career and retirement, where public service became her focus.
In her tenure as volunteer recycling coordinator, she has:
- Implemented a bear-proof, transfer station-based food waste diversion program and promoted the sale of countertop containers and bins for home composters.
- Secured a $19,000 Community Compact Best Practices grant for waste reduction program expansion.
- Established a textile recovery program, collecting nearly four tons of textiles in the second and third quarters of 2023.
- Introduced a bulky rigid plastic collection program.
- Expanded the electronics recycling program to include all electronic devices with cords.
- Enlarged the battery collection program to accept all battery types, including alkaline batteries.
- Created a brochure for the transfer station.
- Enhanced the town’s waste-related webpage with informative content.
- Conducted outreach at community events, organized a composting workshop, and engaged in tabled activities.
- Developed marketing materials and signage for the mattress recycling program.
Furthermore, Rene actively contributes to the Berkshire and Western Massachusetts Solid Waste Community by serving on advisory boards, mentoring other communities, and advocating for small-community Hazardous Household Waste event parity.
Rene’s outstanding achievements extend beyond waste reduction, as she has secured over $2.5 million in grants for Sheffield in various areas, demonstrating her remarkable dedication and positive approach.
Nicolette Pocius – John D. O’Bryant School of Mathematics and Science
Nicolette Pocius is an exceptional teacher at John D. O’Bryant School of Mathematics and Science. Alongside her role teaching environmental science and advising the Recycling and Environmentalism Club, she wears many hats, including coaching sports and serving as the National Honor Society (NHS) Faculty Advisor and Ski & Snowboard Club Advisor.
Nicolette’s Recycling and Environmentalism Club, active since 2017, boasts 20-30 members. They meet twice weekly to manage recycling totes around the school, collecting roughly 29,184 gallons annually. This dedicated group also educates the school community on recycling. Nicolette collaborated with her students and the Recycling and Environmentalism Club to launch a food waste collection pilot. They conducted a waste audit, diverting 285 pounds of food waste to composting during a week. Since launching on April 3, 2023, the school has diverted over 7,000 pounds of food waste to compost.
Nicolette’s unwavering commitment, extra credit initiatives, and collaboration with students have made her program a model for replication in other BPS schools. She also creates a safe space for her students and deeply cares for their well-being. Nicolette Pocius is a remarkable educator and a deserving nominee for MassRecycle’s Individual Award.
Dr. Tom Irwin
I nominate Dr. Tom Irwin for his exceptional advocacy of paint extended producer responsibility (EPR) legislation in Massachusetts. His grassroots approach has sparked transformative change, inspiring citizens and businesses statewide to embrace sustainability. Dr. Irwin, a physician and chemical engineer, emerged as a leader in paint stewardship advocacy through voluntary work in Dalton. He discovered the PaintCare program’s potential to manage hazardous materials effectively.
Dr. Irwin’s vision involves organizing forums to garner grassroots support for paint EPR across the state. He engages residents, leaders, representatives, and legislators, creating a robust coalition for responsible paint disposal. His forums are not his only approach: he has gone door to doo collecting signatures and rousing support for paint care legislation. His tireless efforts elevate paint EPR in public discourse.
Dr. Irwin’s collaborative spirit fosters partnerships among diverse stakeholders, promising a lasting environmental impact. If passed, the legislation he champions would benefit the environment, municipal waste programs, and serve as a model for future EPR laws. His unique dedication deserves recognition, making him a true grassroots champion for EPR in Massachusetts.