A Carroll County company that went above and beyond the state's environmental regulations recently earned the top recognition for those efforts.

North American Stainless, a part of the Acerinox Group, earned the Kentucky Excellence in Environmental Leadership - or KY EXCEL - Master Level designation for the company. Officials from the Department of Environmental Protection presented a certificate to the company during a ceremony Friday.

The voluntary program, which recognizes a company's environmental stewardship and contributions to improving Kentucky's environment, asks businesses to participate in five environmental projects a year to become a top-level member, North American Stainless Environmental Manager Maria A. Eichelberger said.

"We've been a leader since they started the program (in 2007)," she said. "It's one of those things we've been working hard on."

Each year, the company has participated in community events such as the fourth grade recycling initiative with Cartmell Elementary students, the annual e-waste recycling day that allows area residents to bring old televisions and computers to a central location, and sponsorship of the annual River Sweep event, in addition to energy saving initiatives and recycling programs at the plant.

Eichelberger said nearly 92 percent of the material used at the factory comes from recycled material. The company also recycles scrap materials to be reused at the same location.

"It saves money to recycle instead of sending it to the landfill," Eichelberger said. "If (consumers) didn't recycle steel, we wouldn't be here."

Because of North American Stainless' efforts for environmental stewardship, the company has provided nearly 2,000 project hours, recycled 300 tons of materials and made a strong commitment to the community since joining the KY EXCEL initiative in 2007, Kentucky's Department of Environmental Protection Environmental Assistance Manager Kenya Stump said.

"It is a great accomplishment," Stump said during the presentation. "You are at an elite level."

Nearly 185 companies and businesses in Kentucky chose to participate in the voluntary program, she said. About 50 of those companies and businesses have attained the Masters Level in the KY EXCEL program.

"You're in a very, very small group," Aaron Keatley, deputy commissioner of the Kentucky Department of Environmental Protection, said. "Congratulations for the choices you've made."