David Skakel, of Mosier, was named 2011 Individual Recycler of the Year by the Association of Oregon Recyclers at the organization's annual conference, held June 16-18 at the Seaside Convention Center in Seaside.

Skakel, founder of the Gorge Rebuild-it Center in Hood River, works as Tri-County Hazardous Waste and Recycling Program coordinator.

"David's recycling advocacy and actions over the last decade have been instrumental in reducing solid waste disposal and diverting reusable, recyclable and compostable materials for recovery and reuse," said Glenn Pierce, supervisor and environmental health specialist for North Central Public Health District.

"It came as a total surprise to me," Skakel said.

"I work amidst some really talented people doing some great things in the state of Oregon," he said. The award reflects "an accumulation of activity over time," he added.

"In a way it made me uncomfortable (to receive the award) because it really is a group effort. I think of all the people who were critical to this effort, doing the heavy lifting for anything I had my hands on."

The award presentation recounted Skakel's decade-long history as a sustainability advocate in the Columbia Gorge Region. Skakel has accomplished, or helped accomplish many firsts in this diverse region, including:

First director of the Columbia Gorge Earth Center;

Taking the lead in establishing the Gorge Rebuild-It Center, the first construction materials reuse center in the Mid-Columbia region;

First Recycling coordinator for Hood River County, and as such was instrumental in helping to establish a variety of recovery and recycling efforts, including mandatory multi-family recycling and 2-percent recovery credits, which resulted in Hood River County far exceeding its annual State Recycling Recovery Rate.

Several community partners, peers and coworkers nominated Skakel for the award.

"Our Eastern Region Solid Waste Program has been working directly with David for over 10 years now and we've been greatly impressed by his passionate, persistent and successful work in the solid waste management areas of reuse, recycling, composting and household hazardous waste," said Bruce Lumper, Solid Waste Program, Oregon DEQ Eastern Region.

Pierce called Skakel "a dedicated, hard-working individual with sustainability at his core. He is one of those treasures of the Mid-Columbia, and it is time that he was recognized for his many contributions to improving our lives in the areas of waste reuse, recycling, composting and household hazardous waste management."

Each year, the Association of Oregon Recyclers selects individuals and organizations who have distinguished themselves by their exceptional contributions to recycling and waste prevention efforts in the Northwest to receive Recycler of the Year awards.

The convention in Seaside included several hundred individuals representing business, civic, government and nonprofit organizations associated with and advocating for responsible materials management through recycling, reuse and recovery of residential and commercial solid waste in our state.

Award recipients typically demonstrate the following:

Enhancement of environmental welfare through waste prevention, recycling, composting, innovation or market development;

A long-term commitment to waste prevention, recycling, market development or community involvement;

Innovation in proposing or implementing new, modified or unique technologies, processes or promotion;

Economic benefits in terms of reduced costs to businesses, organizations or the public;

Transferability of recycling or waste prevention programs, processes or efforts.

Skakel was also credited with:

Assisting in the planning effort to establish a three-county Household Hazardous Waste collection program in the Mid-Columbia region (for which Skakel now serves as program coordinator), which holds monthly collections at two permanent HHW collection facilities in The Dalles and Hood River;

Advocating for a Gorge Organics Feasibility Study, which led to the development, permitting and operation of the first commercial composting operation in the Mid-Columbia Region - Dirt Hugger LLC recently received a permit which will allow them to collect and compost food waste from commercial and residential generators in the Columbia Gorge;

Establishing a Master Recyclers program in the Mid-Columbia region, with 35 graduates to date donating their volunteer time to promote recycling and composting throughout the Gorge region.

While Skakel holds an undergraduate economics degree from Boston College, his interest in solid waste issues stems from a Master Recycler Composter course in Snohomish County, Wash., in 1992.

He is a former founding board member of WINGS, which provides life skills, housing and work training and placement to local at-risk 18-23-year-old young men. Skakel fell in love with the Mid-Columbia Region while traveling through the area in the late 1980s.

Skakel and his wife, Kate, eventually purchased property and built an efficient home made of recycled polystyrene in Mosier. They have two daughters.