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Zero Waste Initiative hosts first conference to focus on rural recycling and business development

Erin Sykes September 28, 2012

Zero Waste Initiative



Athens, OH, September 28, 2012--On September 13 and 14, 2012 the Appalachia Ohio Zero Waste Initiative (AOZWI) hosted the first conference in the nation focused on increasing recycling and business development specifically in rural areas.

"I thought the most positive part was the fact that it truly was what if professed to be. It was a summit about and for rural areas. Being able to actually interact with people that do face the same problems you face on a day to day basis was invaluable," said Carol Throckmorton, West Virginia Solid Waste Management Board.

Catalyzing relationships between all waste and recycling players-- local officials, university leaders, community members, government agencies, regional and national leaders, local businesses, nonprofit leaders--was key goal of the summit.

"In as little as 15 minutes, the time it took for Ms. Beri Fox, president of Marble King, to give her presentation, new networks were formed between a recycling collector and Ms. Fox, providing a new avenue for recyclable glass and the continued production of the world famous marbles. In essence, one person's trash became another person's treasure." said Megan Chapman, Ohio University student and graduate assistant for AOZWI.

Over 130 people came together, from Ohio, Kentucky, West Virginia and across the nation, to learn about local business development, exemplary rural recycling programs, rural recycling policy and why waste and recycling issues are so important to rural Appalachian areas. 

"I was impressed that in one room, the conference gathered the people who have made recycling happen in the region with those who could extend successful programs throughout the...region," said Neil Seldman, keynote speaker and president of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance.  Seldman has over 30 years of experience accelerating the implementation and expansion of new recycling technologies and business enterprises.

A powerhouse  of recycling and rural development experts, including Seldman shared how local communities are benefitting financially, environmentally and socially from recycling-based businesses and programs including Karen Luken, Global Solid Waste and Wastewater Director for President Clinton's Clinton Climate Initiative & Earl Gohl, Federal Co-Chair of the Appalachian Regional Commission, who participated in a plenary panel,  The Global and Regional Context: Why Rural Appalachian Solutions Matter.

The conference also featured local experts in the field including: Alan Hale, solid waste district coordinator in Logan County, OH which was the first county in the state to set zero waste as a goal; Mickey Mills,  executive director of the Bluegrass Regional Recycling Corporation in Kentucky; and Beri Fox, president of Marble King in West Virginia.

This summit is the beginning AOZWI's efforts to build regional relationships and expand its focus from Athens and Hocking Counties to surrounding rural Appalachian counties in Ohio and in surrounding states.

"All these Appalachian and rural communities share similar challenges capturing recyclable materials from the waste stream.  Creating regional relationships is a key way to capture more recyclables, develop businesses, and change waste from a liability to a community asset," said Kyle O'Keefe, Zero Waste Initiative Coordinator.

The Appalachia Ohio Zero Waste Initiative collaborates with communities to build local wealth and environmental health by increasing waste diversion and supporting the development of a zero waste economy. The Initiative is coordinated by Rural Action and is in partnership with the Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs at Ohio University and funded by the Sugar Bush Foundation.


Erin Sykes, Zero Waste Initiative
Rural Action
P.O. Box 157
Trimble, Ohio 45782
(740) 767-4938