Our interview with Keep America Beautiful

A conversation with Randy Hartmann, Senior Director of Affiliate Operations, Keep America Beautiful 

By Sarah Currie-Halpern, Think Zero LLC

Think Zero LLC Co-Founder Sarah Currie-Halpern spoke with Randy Hartmann, Senior Director of Affiliate Operations at Keep America Beautiful, about waste reduction, recycling, and greening local communities.

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SCH: Hi Randy, thanks for speaking with me today about your work. Can you tell us more about Keep America Beautiful (KAB) for our readers who may not be as familiar?

RH: KAB is a 65-year-old non-profit organization dedicated to inspiring and educating people to help beautify their communities. We encourage people to become actively engaged in greening their communities! KAB is focused on three priorities: finding an end to Littering, Improving Recycling, and Beautifying America’s Communities.

SCH: What are your greatest challenges?

RH: One of the biggest challenges we face is the acceptance of different materials for recycling in different areas. Recycling is a local issue. It changes by community. The “recycling shed” as I call it- what they are feeding into the MRF (recycling facility) spells out what ends up being recycled or becoming contamination. 

SCH: Tell me about the Beyond the Bin recycling toolkit for local communities. How can communities take advantage of this if they are not doing so already?

RH: This toolkit and program is all about where do you put the materials that cannot be recycled in your community? We have developed many partnerships enabling people to recycle materials that are not recycled in their community. For example, one partnership is with retailers and grocery stores. Film plastic bags are a huge contaminant for MRFs, they lose up to 4 hours per day cleaning out plastic bags from their machinery. Many retailers will now accept the bags for recycling, keeping them out of the municipal recycling stream. Many stores will take dry cleaning bag and other film plastics for recycling as well. We encourage everyone to take those plastic bags back to the grocery store! I encourage you to visit https://berecycled.org to find out how to recycle many different hard to recycle materials.

SCH: Does KAB do any work or messaging on the problem of plastics in our oceans and waterways?

RH: Yes, we are part of the initial partners in Trash Free Seas Alliance. Marine debris is an important issue when looking at the global environment. 80% of marine debris comes from land sources. We are combating the problem this year with our Great American Cleanup, which has a focus on reducing litter in our bodies of water. 

SCH: How can people get involved with KAB?

RH: Visit KAB.org and look for America Recycles Day to find out how to participate. For the Great American Cleanup reach out to your local affiliate who is participating. 

SCH: Thank you for your time!

RH: My pleasure.