Gray recycling committee chairman receives eco-Excellence Award

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Gray recylcing commitee chairman Jonathan Hedman, second from left, was honored with an eco-Excellence award this week by ecomaine. To his right is Gray Town Manager Deborah Cabana and to his left are ecomaine Communications Manager (and Gray resident) Lisa Wolff, and ecomaine Chief Executive Officer Kevin Roche.

GRAY — Jonathan Hedman has led the Gray Recycling Committee since 2013 and was recognized by recycling and waste-to-energy organization ecomaine with an eco-Excellence Award.

Hedman was one of the organization’s 18 award recipients recognized at a March 6 luncheon in Portland. Hedman, 69, is now retired after more than 40 years in the natural gas industry.

He spoke with the Lakes Region Weekly about his involvement with both the recycling committee and the Gray Community Food Pantry.

Q: How did it feel to be nominated and receive this eco-Excellence Award? 

A: Quite honestly, I was surprised. And I was also grateful for the opportunity to receive it. I had no idea it was coming, and that’s kind of the best way to get an award.

Q: In your work on the committee, do you work pretty closely with ecomaine?

A: Yes I do. In fact, when we ran our Blueberry Festival last year, the Blue Tarp Experience (which I renamed the Green Tarp because after all green is recycling) is an activity for kids, and I took the inspiration from information on the ecomaine website. And Lisa (Wolfe) is also a town resident, but works for ecomaine and came out and supported us at our booth … As we handed out information on our town, she handed out information on ecomaine. So it was kind of a two-fold experience. But the best part was the kids, we had over 40 kids that ran through our recycling challenge.

Q: Was there any specific initiative that they recognized you for with this award? 

A: The one that is directly related to my recycling committee actives was our bulky waste punch card. As many other towns do, we had a couple of weekends a year that people could bring bulk waste for no charge — because normally that’s one of the few items that we charge for at the recycle center. And it had become a little overburdening for the recycle staff. As you can imagine, if you only have two weekends a year, everything comes. And it was a difficulty also for people in the town because they had to hold on to their bulky waste if the wanted to bring it for free.

So we instituted a card which allowed them to bring a number of items for free any time during the year that they were generated. for instance, if you wanted to get rid of an old couch, and you wanted to do it in June, you didn’t want to wait until August or April next year to get rid of it … So this program was a benefit to the town because it reduced the all hands on deck deal that we had to do to get through those two weekends, and at the same time, it gave our citizens a lot more flexibility in how they recycle and eliminate waste that they generate.

Q: What initiatives are the recycling committee working on now? 

A: Yes, we’re currently working on an initiative to compare the way we recycle in Gray to the way the majority of the ecomaine charter members — which we are a charter member of ecomaine — do, which is single-sort recycling. We currently separate all of our recycled products into separate bins, and our director Randy Cookson, who’s been an inspiration for me and many others in town, then sells that on the open market.

One of the problems is the open market has been kinda of caving in due to China refusing to take a lot of recycled goods in recent months and years. So we are working to see if it would be economically feasible for the town to switch to the normal, single-stream recycling they started in, I think around 2008 or 2009 at ecomaine, or to stay with our old recycling effort. That’s our big project for right now, and it encompasses a lot of different pieces.

Q: Do you think your roles with the recycling committee and Gray Community Food Pantry have allowed for some synergies to help both groups? 

A: Yes — one of the things, for instance, when I joined the food pantry that I was thrilled about was I found the food pantry was a very avid recycler — bringing all their cardboard in to the recycle center when they were finished with the boxes and such. And we also compost any food that we can’t use, in others words food that’s gone past its useful life, in a compost bin that we have at our pantry. We try to get a little bit of each involved to kind of bring this whole operation just a little bit together.

Matt Junker can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or mjunker@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @MattJunker.

Gray recylcing commitee chairman Jonathan Hedman, second from left, was honored with an eco-Excellence award this week by ecomaine. To his right is Gray Town Manager Deborah Cabana and to his left are ecomaine Communications Manager (and Gray resident) Lisa Wolff, and ecomaine Chief Executive Officer Kevin Roche.

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