Missoula, MT (KGVO-AM News) - The big news at the 2023 Western Montana Fair revolved around an innovative waste removal effort that resulted in the fact that not a single one of the trash bins at the fairgrounds had to be emptied over the full five day period.

How could that have happened, especially with record attendance and revenue at the fair?

An Amazing Thing Happened at Last Year's Western Montana Fair

On Friday, I spoke with Billie Ayers, Events and Operations Officer at the Missoula County Fairgrounds, who relayed some remarkable news.

“One of the biggest things coming out of the fair in 2023 was the fact that we reduced the amount of waste that was created from the fair by 74 percent,” began Ayers. We had 64 percent of that go to compost, and 10 percent of that went to recycling.”

The new innovation? Sorting bins with specific instructions for fairgoers.

New Sorting Bins Helped the Public Separate Their Trash

“We created new bins at the fair that are designed simply with the words ‘cardboard goes here’, ‘food and compost go here’, and ‘if you have any doubt, it goes in the trash’,” she said. “Our vendors, when they're selling the food to the public, they'll actually help with that instruction and let the public know you can put all that into the compost bin, and then that gets turned into soil, and a lot of that soil you see right across the road at the fairgrounds inside the Gerald W. Marks Exploration Center in the Rocky Mountain Gardens.”

There was one very surprising result of the recycling efforts.

Not One of the Trash Bins Had to be Emptied at Last Year's Fair

“For the people that are walking by these sorting bins and seeing the dedication by the Western Montana Fair Green Team, which was done with Home Resource and the Missoula County Extension office, they see that people care, but then they also saw that they never filled the trash bin. The trash bins never had to be emptied at the county fair for those five days.”

In fact, the recycling effort spread to the fairgoers, who helped the staff when one of the bins spilled onto the ground.

“In fact, we have this great story of when the guys were dropping off or picking up all the trash around the area at the fair, one of the carts spilled, and before our guys could get off of their golf cart and pick up the accident, the rest of the community (fairgoers) pitched in and had already put it back in the right bin.”

Ayers said she has been sharing the success of Missoula County’s trash and recycling efforts with other venues, such as fairs and rodeos around the region.

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Gallery Credit: KC

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