Talking Trash

There is good news and bad news. First, the bad news … Each day, the average Texan throws away nearly six pounds of trash. In fact, according to a study by Master’s of Public Health, Texas ranks 51 out of all states and Washington, D.C. in CO2 emissions and other areas of “greenness.” Now the good news! The City of Frisco is working hard to change these outcomes and is creating a greener existence for its residents and community. Since 2004, the City of Frisco leads the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex with the highest rates of recycling services and offers a bevy of residential, commercial and construction programs, designed to sustain and improve the quality of life of all who call Frisco home, while also sustaining natural resources for present and future generations. “Recycling is important to every individual within Frisco. Through these efforts, while working together, we can change our world,” explains Jeremy Starritt, the manager of Frisco’s environmental services department. “Even though the act of recycling a single waste item may not seem very important, when we all recycle together, we reduce the size of our landfills. This saves the City of Frisco thousands of dollars in annual costs and passes these savings on to Frisco residents through low sewage charges year after year. In addition, recycling preserves our planet’s natural resources, uses recycled materials to make new products and inspires other communities around the world by our efforts together.”

Beginning in 1987, Pippa Couvillion, a lone volunteer, launched the City of Frisco’s recycling revolution because she simply saw the need. Initiating small events, spreading the word about the importance of recycling and speaking to residents, door to door, Ms. Couvillion’s efforts paid off. She graduated to become a part-time employee in 1994, and was named the environmental services department’s first full-time manager in 1997. At her retirement party, Mayor Maher Maso summarized, “Ms. Couvillion’s efforts saw the start of curbside recycling with 18-gallon bins, the implementation of fully-automated cart service for household trash collection, the transition to 95-gallon carts for recyclables collection and the recycling milestone of more than 1,500 tons collected per month, resulting in savings to Frisco’s citizens of millions of dollars in avoided landfill disposal costs.” Since this time, recycling and the various green programs within Frisco have only continued to grow.

“Today, through Pippa’s enthusiasm and initiative, we have been able to establish unique and interesting programs that have only enabled and continued to build the environmental services staff and successes,” notes Mr. Starritt. “I am thankful I was able to work under Ms. Couvillion’s tutelage, and since then, our recycling efforts have increased from 69 percent to 85 percent weekly participation. In fact, we have the highest rates of service within the metroplex, and we are still growing. Our mission is to be dedicated, environmentally responsible stewards of our community and to the earth as a whole, and given our growth over the past 12 years, we hope to continue to enhance and improve environmental sustainability throughout our city.”

One of the environmental services department’s most successful educational programs includes its long-standing partnership with the Frisco ISD. Beginning by asking for assistance within each of the schools by seeking out volunteer helpers, the group eventually determined that a paid staff “Green Team Coordinator” was required to create a long term and sustaining impact for their purposes. Mandated by the FISD, these coordinators oversee all recycling processes and projects, including working with children for all recycling activities, as well as the coordination of the walk or bike to school program, recycling within the cafeteria, battery and shoe recycling and many other initiatives. “Collecting recycling material is just a small part of this activity. Truly, we are introducing and educating very young minds about new habits and the importance of creating new practices in place, both at school and at home,” continues Mr. Starritt. “The FISD saves money each year on trash disposal with all of their robust and creative recycling programs, but teaching children and staff the importance of recycling each day ensures our school district as a whole has a sustainable future for many years to come.”

In addition to diligently working with the schools, another active program facilitated by the environmental services department is the Teens4Green program. Initially founded in August of 2014 by Frisco teens Cristelle Meza and Ariadna Lubinus, Teens4Green is a student-run club, which strives to improve environmental sustainability in and around Frisco. After approaching the environmental services department for support and help, Teens4Green was created “by Frisco teens for Frisco teens,” and actively works on various team projects and promotes environmental awareness because of their deep concern about the health and social impacts due to non-eco friendly practices within the community.

After creating their own website and an outgoing emailing mechanism, these teens began inviting everyone they knew for the initiative. Molly Kinson, the environmental education coordinator, notes, “One fun activity planned by our teens included painting all of our recycling dumpsters, and when you look at the creativity on display, it is really remarkable. To become a member of this group, all one has to do is sign up on our list. We have members from different high schools and middle schools, even teens from other districts are involved. Teens just want to make an impact on the local community and help the environment.”

One teen notes, “It feels good to give back to the community around me. I want to do good for others.” Another added, “This organization is great because it allows me to do something I like to do while accumulating hours for school requirements.”

In addition to school and teen programs, Frisco’s environmental services department offers its Hazmat Center and the Adopt-A-Street programs, along with others. Designed for the drop off of hazardous, household items and e-waste collectables, Frisco’s Hazmat program is, by far, one of the most commonly used initiatives throughout the community. Accepting most household chemicals, paint, cleaners, gasoline, old televisions, computers and other electronics, cooking oil, antifreeze and many other items, the center does not charge for drop off, and the service provides two key benefits for Frisco: saving the landfill space (and cost) and overall, it preserves our environment. Conversely, the Adopt-A-Street program allows individuals, civic organizations and other groups the opportunity to help beautify their community by volunteering to collect litter along Frisco streets. Adopters of such streets agree to maintain a one-mile stretch of roadway (in both directions) for one year. “These and our other recycling programs are important to each and every family in Frisco because working together, we can make a difference and an impact in this world,” concludes Mr. Starritt. “Many residents do not think about recycling beyond rolling their carts out for pickup and rolling them back into their garages. However, as more and more citizens become aware of the various services and programs we offer and the long-term effects these actions have on our environment and our planet as a whole, we believe more and more individuals will take advantage. And, that is why we are here. Ultimately, when considering these things, why would we not recycle?”

For more information about all of the environmental service department’s programs, visit friscotexas.gov/377/environmental-services.

Carolyn Cameron
Carolyn Cameron is an online writer and marketer who fancies coffee, her family, random creative endeavors and finishing a home project in her off time.