Nine years ago, on Sandy Brown’s first day in Wayne, she attended a recycling exposition in the city auditorium. After driving her Prius in from Seattle the night before, Brown was looking for a way to get involved in the community. Among many vendors was the Wayne Green Team, and within the year, Brown would join and help set up some of the great programs Wayne has been a part of.
The Wayne Green Team has been a staple of the Wayne community since April of 2009. The group, which meets monthly, actively searches for improvements to Wayne’s recycling and helps educate the community about recycling programs. Lois Shelton, former mayor of Wayne, assigned 15 people to the program with a simple motto: “There is no such thing as waste, only wasted resources.”
Brown has recycled all her life, but has seen the importance firsthand since moving to Wayne.
“I think I was just so spoiled in Seattle with all the easy access,” Brown said. “Moving here, there’s more challenges just because of the rural area and the distance to recyclers.”
The EPA reported that in the year 2015, The United States created 262.4 million tons of trash, with 137.7 million tons ending up in landfills. While these numbers have been steadily decreasing since the 80s, they are still concerning. According to the Nebraska Recycling Council, Nebraska wastes more than neighboring states while recycling less. Many people attribute this to a lack of recycling programs in rural areas.
“We’ve really focused on building flyers and resources that talk about all the things you can reduce or recycle in Wayne,” Brown said.
This includes thrift stores or consignment shops.
Wes Blecke, city administrator, moved back to Wayne in 2005, just before the beginning of the Wayne Green Team.
“I think we had recycling then,” Blecke said. “The big impact they made is in education.” The Wayne Green Team meets with first, third and fifth graders every year to discuss ways to limit waste.
“In 5th grade, you can get more into the science about what it means to decompose,” Brown said. She said they focus on starting them with simple ideas to reduce and reuse, but eventually get into the science of why it matters.
The Wayne Green Team also sponsors events to recycle hazardous materials and technology that shouldn’t be thrown away. The Green Team finds places to take batteries, eyeglasses, inkjet cartridges or other materials that are often forgotten in recycling. They also host an annual electronics recycling event where people can take their electronics.
“Electronics recycling is a big deal,” Blecke said. “It’s a program that people look forward to every year.”
Brown said she enjoys being able to see the physical aspect of their impact, with two trucks full of electronics being shipped off to a recycling center.
The Green Team is also in charge of Wayne’s Earth Day festivities, which take place the week of Aug. 22.
The Green Team also helps with The Wayne Recycling and Trash Center, formerly known as the Wayne Transfer Center, which hosts year-round programs to help with recycling. Right now, the
Green Team is sponsoring a Christmas lights program, where people can take lights that are dying or dead.
When Sandy Brown drove into Wayne nine years ago, she had no plans to be part of the Wayne Green Team. However, when she saw the opportunity to help her community, she got involved. The Wayne Green team won the 2015 Green Team of the year from the Nebraska Recycling Council. Brown has spoken on behalf of the Wayne Green Team at a Kansas City recycling convention, and said she enjoys that the Wayne Team can be a resource and inspiration for other communities.