Leisy’s Legacy continues recycling efforts at fair

Leisy’s Legacy continues recycling efforts at fair
Dan Starcher

Ray Leisy, left, Kelly Riley, and Tom Dilyard spent the day installing recycling bins throughout the fairgrounds recently.


Large events such as festivals, concerts, and county fairs are fun and exciting, but they generate an enormous amount of waste.

Since 2007, the volunteer group Leisy’s Legacy has been helping to tackle the mountain of waste left in the wake of the Wayne County Fair.

“We have collected about 106 tons of recyclables over the years that would have otherwise gone to the landfill,” said the group’s namesake, Ray Leisy, a retired Wayne County Judge.

According to Leisy, there is more to the job than people imagine.

“Recycling has changed over the years,” Leisy continued. “We used to be able to throw everything in one bag, and they would take it. Now, we must pull out as much trash as possible, or it is at risk of becoming contaminated.”

From the moment planning for the fair begins, resources are consumed, making waste generation a significant concern throughout each stage of the event.

The sheer volume of single-use items, such as food containers, plastic cups, and cutlery, can be overwhelming. In addition, discarded promotional materials, excessive packaging, and leftover food contribute to the issue. Fortunately, vendors are aware of the waste problem and are helping out.

“We have about 50 sponsors, including food vendors and various fair booths,” said Kelly Riley, Wayne County Soil and Water Conservation District’s Education Specialist. “We even have a food waste program, where all discarded food goes to make compost.”

Gone are the days when extravagance and excess were the norms. Event planners and organizers embrace a more conscious approach, aiming to reduce waste and minimize their carbon footprint.

“Economically, our recycling program pays for itself,” Riley continued. “The fair board is not paying for trash removal, and the sponsorships pay for the equipment.”

Leisy’s Legacy focuses on finding innovative ways to make the fair environmentally friendly without compromising the overall experience.

According to Leisy’s Legacy volunteer Tom Dilyard, the current focus is to get people to use recycling bins for their intended use rather than contaminating them with trash.

“The vendors know that cans must be rinsed out before we can take them,” he said. “If there is food waste in the recycling bags, we must remove it before it can be recycled, or it might cause contamination. It is time-consuming, but it is worth it.”

Riley said the job couldn’t be accomplished without the sponsors, Wayne County Recycling District, and a team of about 50 volunteers.

“Youth make up many of our volunteers,” she said. “During the fair, Future Farmers of America (FFA) students from Norwayne, Smithville, Triway, Northwestern, and their advisors constantly change out recycling bags.”

Dan Starcher is the Public Communications Coordinator for the Wayne County government.

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