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40th Annual Silver Winner Telly Awards badge

Last month, the Bureau of Solid Waste Management announced that four members of its recycling staff won a National Association of Government Communicators (NAGC) Blue Pencil and Gold Screen Award for their contributions to the creation of Baltimore County’s comedic, silent film-style recycling public service ad (PSA), “Tangled Up!”

Now members of the County’s recycling staff have won a 2019 Telly Award for their work on the PSA.

Communications Specialist Jeanette Garcia Polasky, Public Information Specialists Rashida White and Anne Marshall and interns Jahi Thomas and Natalie Adachi were among the 11 county employees who worked on the PSA that earned them a Silver Telly Award in the Social Video, General-Public Service and Activism category. Other 2019 Silver Award winners include Verizon Media, The Humane Society of the United States and the National School Boards Association.

Receiving over 12,000 entries from all 50 states and five continents, the Telly Awards honors excellence in video and television across all screens and is judged by more than 200 leaders from video platforms, television, streaming networks and production companies including Vice, Vimeo, Hearst Digital Media, BuzzFeed and A&E Networks.

Produced in-house, “Tangled Up!” shows why “tanglers” – items such as plastic bags and clothing – are not accepted by most recycling programs. The PSA has been shared on social media and blogs by more than 170 government, business, media and nonprofit organizations and industry professionals on four continents.

Watch and share Baltimore County’s award-winning recycling PSA on YouTube, Facebook or Twitter.

By Richard Keller, Department of Public Works

World War two era poster that reads they've got guts. Back em up with more metal

Like many of you on Memorial Day, I found myself reflecting on the dedication and sacrifice of the men and women of our nation’s armed forces. I also got to thinking about the ways in which civilians have supported soldiers’ efforts over the years, and one thing is very clear: History shows that recycling can be a patriotic act.

During World War II, Japan invaded Southeast Asia and cut off supplies of tin and rubber. Therefore, in January 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt established the War Production Board, whose role included allocating resources such as steel, aluminum and rubber.

World War two era poster that states Wanted for Victory, waste paper, old rags, scrap metals, old rubber

As a result, citizens participated in scrap drives to collect materials for the war effort. They recycled scrap metal (for bombs, ammunition, tanks, guns and battleships), rubber (for gas masks, life rafts, cars and bombers), paper, fats and tin. Promotion of this recycling effort included creative posters on recycling various scrap materials that emphasized the connection between recycling and the war effort. Most of these posters included proud and patriotic messaging, but others played into people’s fears and used offensive stereotypes to motivate their contributions to the effort.

While there are no figures available on the recycling percentages during the war, the recycling effort was national in publicity, but mobilized locally. 

And while no one wants a war, it would be great if we could again inspire Americans to recycle for the USA!

Looking to improve your recycling efforts? Read information about accepted recyclables on the County’s website

by Jeanette Garcia Polasky, Department of Public Works

image of trash floating in ocean

You’ve probably heard the saying, “Everything’s bigger in Texas.” It makes sense, given that Texas is our nation’s largest state in “the lower 48.” But the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is bigger…much bigger. In fact, it’s twice the size of the Lone Star State and continues to grow. And it is estimated that its four siblingsthe South Pacific, North Atlantic, South Atlantic and Indian Ocean garbage patchescover at least two million square miles, collectively. All five oceanic garbage patches contain high concentrations of plastic, some of which has disintegrated into the smaller pieces that we refer to as microplastics. The smaller the pieces, the harder they are to clean up and the easier they are for marine life to ingest.

Scientists are still learning about how these garbage patches affect the environment, marine life and human health, but we frequently see examples of the negative impacts of plastic pollution in the news and on social media, such as videos of birds and turtles that have gotten tangled up in plastic, or stories about dead fish and other marine life being found with lots of plastic in their stomachs. It’s not hard to imagine those problems on a much larger scale.

image of turtle in waters polluted with trash

However, the ocean’s five garbage patches are really only the tip of the iceberg. According to the Ocean Cleanup Foundation, more than five trillion pieces of plastic litter the ocean. That means we have a lot of cleaning up to do, as will our children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. It also means we must learn to be much more careful about the use of plastic in our everyday lives.

April is Earth Month, and like last year, 2019’s theme focuses on beating plastic pollution. Here are 15 tips to help you get started.​ 

  1. Help save the turtles and our materials recovery facility: Use reusable shopping bags instead of single-use plastic bags. If you forget to bring a reusable bag, buy one or ask for “paper, not plastic.” If you must use a single-use plastic bag, recycle it through your local retailer.
  2. Choose products packaged in cardboard, paper, metal and glass over plastic (including polystyrene) whenever possible. Go the extra mile and reuse your glass jars as cups or to store food and small household items. 
  3. Shop in bulk to reduce packaging waste. Buying coffee pods by the thousand doesn’t count.
  4. Refuse single-use plastic straws. If you need a straw in order to drink, consider using a stainless steel straw or some other more sustainable option.
  5. Americans buy about 50 billion water bottles each year. All that convenience carries a hefty price tag. Drink from a reusable water bottle instead of buying bottled water.
  6. Bring a thermos when you’re on the go instead of buying beverages in single-use containers.
  7. Use reusable cups, plates and cutlery in lieu of the single-use plastic options.
  8. Having a party? Opt for reusable linens and decorations instead of single-use plastic.
  9. Store food in reusable containers instead of plastic food storage bags and cling wrap.
  10. Purchase cleaners and other household items in refillable containers. Soon you will have more options to do so!
  11. In the bathroom: Buy soap, shampoo and other personal care products in bar form or refillable packaging. Try using a bamboo toothbrush. Use razors with metal handles, not plastic. Also, beat the micro-bead.
  12. Clothing care: Use wire hangers instead of plastic ones. And refuse conventional dry cleaning bags. If your dry cleaner will agree to use it, bring in a reusable garment bag when you drop off your dry cleaning.
  13. Parentsconsider using cloth diapers.
  14. Stop buying or accepting plastic freebies, promotional items, party favors, trinkets and other novelty items you don’t need. They create clutter and eventually end up in a landfill, or worse, polluting lands and waterways.
  15. Close the loop: If you must buy plastic, look for products that are made from recycled material.

Want to get an idea of how much plastic you use? Calculate your plastic footprint using the Earth Day Network’s calculator.

Photographs by Caroline Power Photography.

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Revised November 14, 2018