Appalachia Zero Waste Initiative Receives $2,000 for Cleanups

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Ohioan Americorps members are preparing for the next four of five cleanups in the Appalachian region that started last Saturday.

The cleanup events, held throughout the Sunday and Monday Creek Watersheds, are funded by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

Americorps volunteers received $2000 from the ODNR for the cleanups that fall under the Appalachia Zero Waste Initiative.

The first cleanup occurred on March 17 in the Trimble Township Community Forest, outside the town of Glouster.

Rose Keyes is one of the six Americorps volunteers that helped in Glouster. “Even though we had a small group, we got an enormous amount of trash out of there.” The group removed 38 tires and over a ton of trash out of the forest.

Since Americorps is a federal government program, it is not uncommon for the volunteers to receive financial aid from the ODNR. Keyes says the $2000 fund can make a big difference.

“Without the fund, we would have still tried to do the cleanups. But it would have been a lot more challenging,” she says.

Part of Americorps’ position is the mapping and cleaning of illegal dumping areas. “Another big part of that is trying to determine effective preventive measures,” Keyes says. “Education is an important part of that.”

That is why the volunteers also use ODNR’s money for spreading flyers and brochures, giving presentations and organizing community meetings. 

Keyes says illegal dumping is a big issue in Appalachian Ohio, fed by financial difficulties, old household habits and a lack of education.

“This is an impoverished region of the state so a lot of people might not be able to afford to pay for trash pickup,” says Keyes.

“Also a lot of the sites that we see are legacy dumps that are seen as the town dump. If there is a site that’s been dumped on for 50 years it can kind of just become sort of the norm, the place where people just go and throw their trash. And a lot of it is also education; informing people about the hazards of dumping trash.”

Keyes has noticed an increasing amount of support from individuals, agencies and counties, which she finds to be very encouraging.

“I feel like we’re sort of on the brink of some really cool changes to the waste stream,” Keyes says.

Keyes sees the cleanups as a rewarding activity. “It’s very physical labor, you know, you get muddy and grindy and sweaty. And everyone is always in very good spirits. It’s a weird thing because on the one hand you don’t want all this trash to be out there but on the other hand it feels really good to be there and picking it up. You feel like you’ve done something good for the community and the environment.”

The next four cleanups will take place in Perry, Hocking, Morgan and Athens Counties.

All cleanups meet at 10am at the Glouster Memorial Park on Routh 13 in Glouster and last until 2pm.

Those who are interested in volunteering are asked to call the Rural Action Office at 740-767-4938.