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Highway Cleanup

Members of the Schuyler Sertoma Club and Schuyler Serteens clean up trash along 2 miles of Highway 15 south of Schuyler in 2015. The cleanup was part of a Keep Schuyler Beautiful litter reduction program sponsored by the Schuyler Recycling Center. The organization will be forced to work with a tight budget as it wasn't awarded all of the funding it was hoping to receive. 

Keep Schuyler Beautiful will be forced to operate under an extremely tight budget once again this year.

Recently, the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality announced the recipients of this year’s annual Litter Reduction and Recycling Grant Program. A total of 49 grants worth a total of $1.3 million were awarded, and the Schuyler-based nonprofit was given $23,884 to help fund its public education program to inform the community about litter reduction and recycling.

The problem is, however, that the listed dollar amount is far less than what was requested. About, half, meaning it will be a challenge to keep the organization operating the way it wants to, said Mary Peschel, who serves on the Keep Schuyler Beautiful board of directors.

She said that the organization requested $35,000 in funding from the NDEQ to cover its operational expenses.

“We’ve been managing on a shoestring for many years, so you have to adapt your operation to what you have,” Peschel said. “So it’s a very difficult time right now.”

While Keep Schuyler Beautiful’s budget continued taking a hit, neighboring city Columbus’ environment-friendly organization received a boost in funding from years past. After receiving half of its asking amount in 2018, this year, Keep Columbus Beautiful received $29,082 – just $3,000 off its asking mark, said Vanessa Oceguera, executive director of Keep Columbus Beautiful.

With its funding lessened, Oceguera said the organization only had enough to “pay to keep the door open.” Rent, personnel, insurance and utilities were all it was able to afford. This was due to the Legislature removing a large chunk of money from the NDEQ grant program in recent years.

This year, the NDEQ received $2.7 million in requests and funded less than half that amount.

A potential reason behind the grant increase in Columbus was the closing of the area's recycling center. Shred Monster, a large-scale commercial and industrial recycling businesses, started accepting residential recycling in Columbus after the city-run recycling facility closed in 2012.

Oceguera said she believes it was the loss of the center that helped to secure greater funding for the organization. Keep Columbus Beautiful plans to create new recycling guides and roll out a media campaign regarding how to recycle correctly with the loss of the center.

“Columbus went through a huge change losing our recycling program,” Oceguera said. “So there was much more of a need for education.”

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