By JENNIFER DEMPSEY

Progress Editor

I recently had the pleasure of riding around with Shannon Ruschel, WMEA program director for Paulding County.

Ruschel has been doing this job for about seven months. She replaced Becky Suvar, who retired after serving the county for 27 years.

During the week, Ruschel loads up in her big red van to pick up recycling around Paulding County.

She picks up recycling items from all the schools in the county, government entities, and even a few businesses.

On Saturdays, she partners with volunteer groups in the county to do pick-ups once a month at various villages in the county.

Although the county commissioners oversee the general budget for the program, the recycling program is not funded by the county.

The money for the program comes in from tipping fees from two different landfills in the area.

Ruschel is an avid recycler herself and is so excited to spread her love of recycling with her fellow county residents.

“I have been a recycler for about 20 years. When I lived in Katy, Texas (a suburb of Houston), we had curbside recycling provided, so that was very convenient. I actually learned a lot from my older daughter, Lindsay. She was the one that got me going because she was so passionate about it,” explained Ruschel.

She has noticed over her time on the job, that the age group of 65 and older are the most regular recyclers. Her goal is to increase recycling in the younger generations.

The hardest part of her job is seeing all the materials that end up in the landfill instead of being recycled.

“It’s frustrating knowing how much recyclable material is still going into trash bins. That frustration is what lends me the impetus to really work on building awareness for the program. Hopefully over time, Paulding County can dramatically increase the volume of material being diverted from the landfills,” Ruschel stated.

Once her big red van is full of recycling from our county, she travels over to Antwerp to get weighed at the grain elevator. Due to newer EPA guidelines, Ruchsel is required to report the weight of the materials she collects for recycling.

Once the items have been weighed, she unloads at Erie Recycling in Antwerp. (We will learn more about them next week).

The trailers used to collect items on the weekend are also unloaded at Erie Recycling.

They average 5.5 tons per month during the school months. In the summer, they recycle about half of that amount.

Ruschel frequently does presentations for school groups, youth organizations and other groups. She talks about how important it is to recycle and some of the important work she does.

“When Becky Suvar retired and I was hired to replace her, I knew right away that my primary focus was going to be on education and awareness. Unfortunately, soon after I started the COVID-19 virus hit and that put the brakes on getting out in the community to raise the profile of the program. I look forward to returning to normal, so I can start going into the schools and businesses to increase the understanding of how important recycling is,” said Ruschel.

Her sunny disposition makes her a joy to be around and her passion for recycling is shown every day at work.

Ruschel hopes to grow the recycling program here and to expand services. “If we don’t start diverting more material our of our landfills, it’s going to be a big problem in the years to come.”

For more information, please feel free to contact Ruschel at 419-399-3630 or by e-mail at shannon@pauldingcountywmea.com.