Keep California Beautiful, the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) and the American Chemistry Council hosted a press conference on the steps of the California State Capitol Thursday, April 21, in honor of Earth Day, to kick off Keep America Beautiful’s Great American Cleanup and to announce the winners of California’s K-12 Recycling Challenge.

“From its waterways and beaches to its national parks and mountain peaks, California is a majestic place. And all Californians have an important role to play in preserving the beauty of this state – not only on Earth Day, but every day,” said Keep America Beautiful President and CEO Jennifer Jehn at the event. “This yearly program serves as an important reminder to all of us to do our part to keep America beautiful.”

During the event, Keep California Beautiful & the Paper Seed Foundation also awarded $18,000 in cash awards for its K-12 Recycling Challenge held during the month of March.  More than 265 California schools participated in the statewide challenge, which focused on schools reducing refuse costs by increasing recycling on a daily basis. Because of the diversity in recycling programs and school infrastructure, the contest includes eight basic material categories: paper, cardboard, CRV beverage containers (bottles, cans, glass), metal cans, expanded polystyrene foam (lunch trays and food service-ware), milk and juice cartons, food service organics (compost) and comingled/single stream recycling. Students therefore learned an important lesson in environmental stewardship, while also promoting California’s goal of reducing 75 percent of its waste by 2020.

“Seeing the amount of work the kids put into this challenge is so inspiring to me. I hope others see their dedication and use it as inspiration to start their own recycling challenges to help keep recyclable products – whether it’s paper, glass, foam, compost or anything else – out of our landfills,” said Ray Scott, Keep California Beautiful Board President. “Earth Day and the Great American Cleanup are the perfect time to evaluate the small or large steps we can all make to keep our environment safe and beautiful.”

Caltrans celebrated the Great American Cleanup with a public display of highway litter removal equipment used regularly to eradicate litter from the state.  The agency also deployed all available maintenance personnel to pick up litter on April 21. Last year’s efforts removed 187 truckloads of litter from California Highways, and Caltrans has received national recognition for their extraordinary Earth Day efforts in past years.

Additional partners participating in the event included CalRecycle, American Chemistry Council, CA Conservation Corps, Dart Container Corp, California Highway Patrol, Paper Seed Foundation, Sacramento State University, California Product Stewardship, Metropolitan Recycling LLC, Republic Services.