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Agawam custodians receive an award for their recycling efforts

By Michelle Kealey

Staff Writer

AGAWAM The Springfield Materials Recycling Facility (MRF) Advisory Board recently presented the Agawam Schools custodial staff with the 2005 Outstanding Recycler award for its efforts in supporting the city's recycling initiative.

The award was framed on a recycled plastic plaque.

Eric Weis, chairman of the MRF Advisory Board and administrator of the Hilltown Resource Management Cooperative (HRMC), said that this is the first year that the MRF Advisory Board has presented the award.

In addition to the Agawam Custodians, the Springfield Police Department received an award for dramatically improving its recycling and Arthur Cohen, former chairman of the Franklin County Solid Waste District, received an award for his life-long commitment to recycling.

Weis said that MRF handed out the awards to "both recognize and encourage recycling."

He explained that MRF covers 80 cities and towns from Springfield to the Berkshires and Franklin County.

He said that MRF handles 50,000 tons of recyclables each year. He added that a new contract has been created that gives cities and towns approximately $15.67 for each ton of recycling they send.

He said that overall the MRF helps cities and towns save money. He added that MRF has helped 80 towns save about $3.5 million in disposal costs because their materials are getting recycled.

Tracy DeMaio, solid waste/stormwater project coordinator for the city of Agawam, said that Agawam schools kicked-off its recycling program in September 2004. She added that, schools were recycling before, but they are now recycling more.

She said that prior to the new program, there were recycling bins placed randomly in the schools. Now, she said that each classroom has its own recycling bin and she made sure that there are enough of the larger green toters that are picked up by BFI.

In addition to the bins in the classrooms, DeMaio said that the kitchen staff has been recycling cans and bottles.

"The custodians had a huge role in making the whole recycling initiative happen," DeMaio said.

She added that they supported the initiative by tracking how much the schools recycle and monitoring the recyclables to make sure that contaminated waste did not make its way into the recycle bins.

In the evenings, the custodians make sure that the recycle bins make their way to the curb for pickup, according to DeMaio.

The exact amount of recycling done in schools has not been counted, however, DeMaio said that reports show that recycling has increased community wide.

"I do believe that has to do with the whole initiative," she said. "It is not something we kick-off and forget."

She added that the custodians did not "bat an eye" when they were asked to help with the program.

"They supported it and understood the value of it," she said.

Without the help of the custodians, DeMaio said that the program would not be as successful as it is.

"They deserve the recognition," she said.

Roger Kupec, deputy director of Building Maintenance, said that the whole department was surprised when they heard about the recognition. He said there are about 35 custodians.

"We did not know an award existed," he said. "[The custodians] were pleased. They don't get recognized too often."

He explained that Agawam asks all households to recycle and it is just as important to do it in the schools.

He added that recycling in schools also has an educational value and the basis of the whole recycling program in the schools is to help educate the children.

"[Children] do what they see," he said, adding that the custodians are a big part of that.

He added that children bring what they learn home with them.