Johnson County Recycles

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What do you do when you don’t offer a recycling program, operate a landfill or a recycling center, yet you want to raise the awareness and importance of recycling and reduce the amount of waste that’s heading into our landfills? That’s the quandary facing Brandon Hearn, an environment health specialist at Johnson County Government, and one of the workers in the County’s Department of Health and Environment responsible for answering that question.

I recently visited with Hearn to learn more about a program he oversees called Johnson County Recycles and the impact he and his small band of brothers are having. “I’m in the solid waste division, so obviously, we focus on reducing solid waste. We do that through enforcement, making sure businesses are meeting state and federal regulations. And then, education. My job is on the education side,” Hearn told me. Hearn works tirelessly on that front, primarily through school visits as he finds children often have more open minds and hearts. “With younger kids, I’ll talk about why it’s important to recycle. Resources. Conservation. Where do our resources come from? What is plastic?” Hearn shared.

Hearn and Johnson County Recycles are making a difference. They’ve just helped the Shawnee Mission School District overhaul its composting efforts. Over a six-year period, the district was able to reduce the waste in its lunchrooms by 85%. That is a ton, pardon the pun, of potential waste kept out of landfills. Hearn says he’s working with the Blue Valley School District now, and hopes to have all schools in the county on board sooner rather than later.

Another big area of impact is the county’s hazardous waste program. “We operate a household hazardous waste location that’s a free drop-off site for paint, chemicals, batteries, fluorescent light bulbs, all sorts of household waste items,” Hearn said. For businesses, Johnson County runs a green business program that’s also free. “Let’s say a business wants to start a recycling program. We will go in to assess what their interests are, what they generate in terms of waste, and look at what opportunities are there. Sometimes composting may be cost effective. Sometimes not. We will evaluate and offer options based on what we find,” Hearn stated. “We kept 50,000 gallons of paint out of our landfills last year. I’m proud of that.”

Want to learn more? Here’s a link you can click that will get you started. https://www.jocogov.org/dept/health-and-environment/environment/recycling/recycling-101

You can also pick up the phone and call the Department of Health and Environment. There’s a good chance Brandon Hearn will be the person picking up the call.

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