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Zero Waste Initiative recommends new recycling programs and infrastructure to solid waste board

Erin Sykes February 6, 2013

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On February 4th, the Appalachia Ohio Zero Waste Initiative (AOZWI) presented the results of its recycling feasibility study to the Athens-Hocking Solid Waste District (AHSWD) Board.   AOZWI recommended that the AHSWD upgrade or establish a new materials recovery facility (MRF) and fully fund an education and outreach program.  AOZWI also recommended exploring several different programs to increase recycling convenience, access, and the types of materials accepted.

"I think it's really important that we move in the direction of responsible management of our environment and economy and I appreciate all the resources AOZWI has put in so far," said Athens County Commissioner Chris Chmiel.  

The AOZWI is coordinated by Rural Action in partnership with the Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs at Ohio University and funded by the Sugar Bush Foundation, a supporting organization of the Ohio University Foundation.  

In order to make recommendations that meet community needs, AOZWI completed four research phases in 2012.  The first two phases included a survey of approximately 3,000 households and 10 community forums in Athens and Hocking Counties.  Forums and surveys were an opportunity for Athens and Hocking County residents to share recycling challenges they faced and ideas for new recycling programs they want in the counties.

"Throughout our engagement with the community we continued to hear the need for programs that increase access to recycling and its convenience.  Another big priority was increasing recycling and waste minimization education," said Rural Action's AOZWI Coordinator Kyle O'Keefe.  "It's very important to us that resource management benefits the local community."

"They've done a lot of work gathering input from the community and I think that's awesome," said Chmiel.

In order to recommend ways to address the concerns of the community, AOZWI completed two additional phases of research:  11 case studies of select rural Ohio recycling programs and a preliminary materials recovery facility feasibility study.

"The case studies highlight some great programs in Ohio, some of which are diverting upwards of 40% of their waste from the landfill," said O'Keefe, "With a 17.5% diversion rate in Athens and Hocking Counties, we think these programs could really boost our recycling rates if we implement something similar here."

In addition to providing the AHSWD with some example programs, the study also found that under certain assumptions, a materials recovery facility (MRF) could possibly be built in Athens or Hocking County that would sustain itself.   The current materials recovery facility is operating at capacity.

"Without an upgraded MRF or new processing infrastructure, AHSWD won't be able to contribute to increasing recycling rates in a way that benefits the local economy over the long term," said O'Keefe.

Now that the results of the study have been presented to the AHSWD Board, AOZWI has high hopes for the study.

"Our hope is this study will serve as a useful tool in finding new ways to increase accessibility of recycling services and create business opportunities that capitalize on recyclable materials diverted from the landfill to create jobs and local wealth," said Senior Project Manager Robin Stewart with the Voinovich School of Public Affairs at Ohio University.  The school was glad to apply their research and analytical skills to advance solid waste reduction and recycling practices in our community, said Stewart.

The study will be the launching pad for the creation of a zero waste action plan for Athens and Hocking Counties.  The study can be found at www.ruralaction.org/zerowaste.

Contact:
Erin Sykes, Zero Waste Initiative, Rural Action
(740) 767-4938