Last year, the roll-off dumpsters at USG’s Donn Drive facility were carted off and dumped at the Bartow County landfill just a handful of times producing more than 26 tons of trash. Through a plant-wide commitment to reduce waste and increase recycling efforts, the dumpsters at USG have not left the facility since November 2011.
By next month, when one year elapses from the implementation of their new procedures, USG will have collected less than one ton of trash, effectively reducing waste by at least 90 percent in a single year.
“Last year, in November, was the last time we sent anything to the Bartow County landfill and last year the total was 26.53 tons — and so far this year, we’re at zero still. Mid November will make our one-year mark since we sent anything to the landfill,” said USG Supply Chain Coordinator Donnie Elrod. “For us, that’s a reward, but our greatest accomplishment has been the relationships we’ve made, with Green Highlands, Hamilton Crossing, Georgia Tech and their LEAN consultant David Apple. These relationships, these partnerships that we have helped us achieve our goals in recycling and inclusion.”
At an award ceremony Tuesday, Bartow County Commissioner Clarence Brown presented USG Interiors with the 2012 Spirit of Green Corporate Leader award. Attending the ceremony were community partners involved with the efforts of USG, including Bartow County Solid Waste Director Rip Conner and Sheri Henshaw and Missy Phillips of the Bartow County Office of Environmental Programs.
One of the key projects cited in the award application compiled by Phillips was USG’s partnership with the Georgia Highlands College Green Highlands student program. Earlier this year, USG coordinated with the college to provide space for a community garden. With volunteers from the college and the plant, USG and Green Highlands successfully produced and donated hundreds of pounds of food for local organizations. Student president Joseph Slay and advisors Devan Rediger and Stacy Brown were present for the ceremony.
“It really gave us an opportunity to do some things that we had wanted to accomplish and it also helped them to accomplish their goals, so it was win-win,” Rediger said. “We have donated roughly 400 pounds of organic produce to the Harvest House and the Good Neighbor Homeless Shelter and our fall harvest is coming in now, so there’s still more to come.”
USG also adopted a mile of roadway in front of the plant, which employees help clean every quarter. The plant recently completed the installation of a more than 1,500 gallon rain harvest system and will soon begin construction of a composting facility to be used in conjunction with the community garden.
The award application commended the company for its ability to promote employee participation and increase program cohesion in such a short time frame. Elrod attributes the accomplishments to the employees at the USG Cartersville facility citing his mantra that “education equals empowerment.”
“If you can educate your people, you can empower them. And that’s what has happened at our plant. We’ve given our employees the knowledge to move forward with recycling and they did. It’s definitely not a one-person job. It takes everyone in the plant,” Elrod said. “All the employees look forward to what next year will bring. We’re trying really hard to continue to improve our processes — I don’t know how much more, but we’ve still got some room to grow.”
As they grow in their environmental programs and efforts, USG is helping others to do the same. This year, the Cartersville facility took on the responsibility of mentoring Hamilton Crossing Elementary in its participation in the Keep Bartow Beautiful school recycling competition. USG volunteers will provide education and encouragement for students as they develop recycling behaviors.
“Everybody that recycles encourages others to do so. Every school we’ve helped to recycle, then the teachers want to continue over the summer and recycle from home. And then the parents start and then students want to know why the colleges don’t recycle, then the colleges do and they go to work and now the corporations recycle,” Henshaw said. “Now we have recycling bins at Georgia Power Plant Bowen, Anheuser-Busch, Shaw plants and Toyo. When you have people committed to recycling it all feeds together.”
USG Interiors manufactures components for suspended acoustic ceilings at 1000 Donn Drive in Cartersville. For more information, visit www.usg.com or call the Bartow County Office of Environmental Programs at 770-387-5167.