Scattered throughout the grounds of Farmfest are dozens of green containers with yellow covers. Those containers are there thanks to the efforts of local volunteers working in conjunction with the leadership of the annual farm show and the Redwood-Renville Regional Solid Waste Authority (RRRSWA).

It was in 2007 when a Redwood Falls youth named Tyler Josephson had the idea to start a recycling program at Farmfest as part of a 4-H project, and over the years tons of material has been collected and recycled rather than just going into the landfill with the rest of the garbage from the event.

According to Mark Trefry, who coordinates the United Community Action Partnership, Inc. Big Buddies program in Redwood County, an opportunity arose for the Big Buddies program to work with those who had helped to begin the volunteer program through a group known as the Friends of Farmfest Recycling.

“Pat Buboltz and Donalee Josephson approached Big Buddies to see if we were willing to carry on the tradition started by the local 4-H group,” said Trefry. 

Meeting with Brian Sams of RRRSWA, the recycling program was redeveloped and as a result a much more streamlined process has been established.

In the past, said Sams, all of the material that was in the recycling containers had to be sorted by hand. With the new single stream recycling process now available, that task is no longer necessary.

“What they were doing when this started was quite an endeavor,” said Trefry.

Today, the volunteers, who are from the 4-H program, Big Buddies, the Friends of Farmfest Recycling, Special Olympics and REM, come each evening following the show and move the 60 recycling containers into locations for the recycling trucks to come in and easily collect the material.

Then, the following morning the volunteers go back out and put the containers in those strategic locations for the people to utilize during the day.

Trefry said it typically takes about an hour in the morning and a couple of hours each night to do the work.

Everything from plastic bottles and aluminum cans can be placed in the containers, as can newspapers and unwanted brochures, said Trefry. Cardboard is also collected, but those who have it are encouraged to place that next to the containers.

“We place the recycling containers right next to the garbage cans,” Trefry said, adding that is intended to make things more convenient for those who visit Farmfest.

Sams said it is pretty easy to distinguish between the two containers, but still there are people who throw their half eaten food in the recycling containers and people who throw their plastic water bottles into the garbage containers.

Each year, estimated Sams, there are 1,500-2,000 pounds of plastic bottles collected. That, he added, equates to somewhere in the 65,000 to 80,000 range of individual bottles. In yard-and-a-half dumpsters, that would equate to about 35-40.

About 5,000-6,000 pounds of cardboard is collected each year. In total, Sams estimated there are in the area of 120-125 yard-and-a-half dumpsters of recycled material that is collected at Farmfest each year.

Sams offered a request to those who are at the show this year.

“Please drink all of the water or pop in your bottles before putting them in the recycling container,” he said.

Trefry said he believes people are getting better at correctly using the containers, adding he thinks overall the public is becoming more aware of the value of recycling.

“All of that material that is being recycled is not going into the landfill,” said

Trefry, adding it is also saving those who operate Farmfest money as they are not paying to have all of that material collected as garbage.

Trefry expressed his appreciation to the Farmfest show leadership, to Sams and RRRSWA, West Central Sanitation and the volunteers for helping to make this program a success.

“We appreciate the efforts to those from the community who have helped continue the project Tyler started,” said Trefry, adding he believes this is a program that is making a difference and should never end.

He also encouraged others who are hosting big events to inquire about setting up a similar recycling program to help lower costs and keep those recyclable materials out of our landfills.

Remember, please recycle when you can.