From Idea to Reality: A Recycling Program Takes Root in Webster, SD
By: Andrea Schmidt
Social worker Jennifer Moos is passionate about recycling. In fact, she spent nearly two years getting a recycling plan in place for Webster, SD, and Day County.
There was no option to recycle there, so when she was invited to a community meeting called Sparking Ideas into Action, she decided to bring it up. She remembers the day well.
“Very shyly I showed up to the meeting, and they said, ‘Okay, if you have an idea, now is the time to talk.’ So I go upfront and say, ‘Does anyone want to recycle?’ And lo and behold, other people in the meeting wanted to recycle, too! So that’s where things spurred from.”
Moos says she was invited to the meeting by her friend Melissa Waldner, previous Executive Director of the Webster Area Development Corporation. Sparking Ideas was part of the Community Coaching program from Dakota Resources, and Paula Jensen served as their Community Coach.
“They were a great team, and they got us thinking out loud as a group,” says Moos. “Paula is wonderful. What they said was really kind too. They said not to feel bad if your idea doesn’t take birth right now. It might be a great idea but might not be time for it to take flight. That made it easier because I was nervous that I would be the only one who wanted to do this.”
She wasn’t alone, though. There are now more than 50 people on the email list about recycling, with 10 of those people actively participating in the planning and implementation.
Overcoming obstacles and finding funds
Moos had hoped to get curbside recycling in Webster but soon discovered it simply wasn’t an option. She then learned about recycling trailers, which can be filled and hauled to a recycling center. That is the option she chose.
The bid for their recycling trailer came in at about $13,000. The people of Webster came together to raise more than $1,000, which was encouraging. The city and county government were also supportive, but they weren’t ready to fund the recycling project.
So after seeking advice from Dependable Sanitation Inc. of Day County, Moos reached out to the Department of Environmental Resources in Pierre. They paid for half the cost of the recycling trailer. Then it came down to grants.
“Melissa Walder said she had a couple of grant ideas for me, but they required that I have a special tax ID number, which of course I do not,” says Moos. “The Day County Conservation District was very kind. It’s their job to keep the land and the water clean, and they said they would partner with us and give us the tax ID number to support this program. Once I had that, it opened up a lot more opportunity for those grants to come in.”
At the end of April 2020, they received their first grant – $6,500 from the State of South Dakota. Then came a local grant from the Day County Community foundation for $5,000. The Day County Commissioners also gave them $500.
Then they got a real surprise.
“I applied for an AARP grant that they said was only for COVID, so when they called me I was really surprised,” Moos laughs. “I thought it was a prank call. I couldn’t believe it. They said they had $10,000 for us. We were shocked!”
Recycling becomes a reality
With the funds they raised, they got their recycling trailer, along with money to help pay for maintenance and hauling the trailer to the recycling center.
In September 2020, the new recycling trailer was installed, so the citizens of Webster and Day County could recycle plastic. Moos did a demonstration during the kickoff, showing people which items they could and could not recycle.
One of the requirements was that the recycle trailer needed to be manned, so they placed it about a quarter-mile outside of Webster at the Day County Conservation District tree shed. People can recycle any day except Mondays when the trailer goes to Watertown to be emptied.
Moos says that while the process was discouraging at times, she’s very glad she took on the recycling project. She encourages people to take action if they have an idea.
“It seems like networking is so huge, and I’m not always the most outgoing person,” she says. “But if something touches your heart you should voice it, and say what you need to say and see if you can make that connection. I would go for it. Way back at that meeting, I was encouraged to speak my idea. Be brave and come forward.”