Northwest Indiana is making big strides in improving air quality, preserving and protecting the environment, and educating the community on environmental health. On May 4, the Northwest Indiana Partners for Clean Air hosted their annual Luncheon and Awards to honor organizations committed to environmental improvement.
The event was held at Hammond Port Authority, the view of clear, blue skies over the marina a fitting backdrop for the occasion. During the ceremony, Metro Recycling received the Partners for Clean Air Business Award for their extensive education programs, their positive impact on local communities, and their continuing leadership in the use of recycled materials. Neil Samahon, CEO of Metro Recycling, accepted the award.
“It’s always nice to be recognized by your peers,” Samahon said sincerely. “Our focus is to provide an outlet for recycled material so that we can preserve our natural resources and create less demands on the environment, which definitely promotes sustainability. This group is focused on clean air, so everything we do ties in to that.”
While at the podium, Samahon took the opportunity to reiterate his company’s mission and to discuss the best ways to grow green communities.
“When it comes to the ‘Three R’s,’ I always say recycling is the last,” Samahon explained. “The priority should be recycling, with the intent to reduce and reuse.”
Metro Recycling contributes to a better, more sustainable environment from a consumer stand-point, but the company stands out when it comes to its notable presence as a partner to the community. Since 2010, Metro Recycling has planted 400 trees in communities across Northwest Indiana. Along with a dedication to a greener and healthier environment, the organization also offers classroom talks and educational activities to teach those same green practices.
“An educated community leads to a cleaner, more vibrant community,” Samahon said, emphasizing the importance of teaching youths how to properly care for their environment.
Samahon said his staff is part of the driving force behind Metro Recycling, and that he hopes every employee feels prideful of the company.
“I’m very proud of this company and what we do,” Samahon said. “Day in and day, we strive to be and do better.”
Other award recipients included Arcelor Mittal, which took home the Industrial Award, and the City of Hobart, which took home the Municipal Award for its leadership in sustainable efforts, such as the installment of a charging station for electric cars.
The new Mark Siminski Bicycle Award was named in honor of Siminski, who collects and refurbishes old bicycles to donate to families in need. He came up with the idea in 2012, when he spoke with a homeless child at a park in Valparaiso. The child was watching another kid play on a bicycle; he confessed his dream was to own one.
“I couldn’t believe that his ultimate wish was something we take for granted every day,” Siminski said.
Since 2016, Siminski has gifted over 700 bicycles to children and families in need.
This year, the Mark Siminski Bicycle award went to “Take Bike the Streets,” an organization based out of Gary that focuses on building bikes and fun accessible amenities, such as a wheel chair designed for use on splash pad, as a way to strengthen the community. “Take Bike the Streets” will be expanding to Porter and La Porte Counties later this year.
The luncheon featured a comical performance by the Whiting Pierogi Fest Buscias and concluded with a few updates from the Indiana Department of Environmental Management Commissioner, Bruno L. Pigott.
“The common conversations we have with environmental groups have become much more specialized, which is a good thing,” Pigott said.
With environmental leaders like Metro Recycling, Arcelor Mittal, and Mark Siminski all gathered in one room, Northwest Indiana’s next chapter is sure to be a great, and much greener one.
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