Zero Waste Initiative Reaching out to Local Businesses

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Three years ago the Athens-Hocking Solid Waste District had the third lowest recycling rate in the state.

So Rural Action, a local nonprofit organization, began the Appalachia Ohio Zero Waste Initiative program, to improve residents' environmental standard of living. The goals for the district included a 15-year plan to reduce waste as well as to make recycling available for 90 percent of residents in the area.

Zero Waste Initiative Coordinator Kyle O'Keefe said that the 8.9 percent recycling rate was due to a lack of community involvement and poor access to recycling. However, now he said the community is much more engaged in the effort to recycle.

"The community is very much present in these conversations, they're involved with it, they're having influence amongst policies, there's new recycling programs that have been started in rural communities and there's educational services," he said. "All sorts of things have grown and we're just trying to fuel that momentum."

Although the program's accomplishments are still being calculated for this year, the first two years of the program have been successful.

From 2010 to 2012, the Athens-Hocking Solid Waste District expanded recycling from 10 to 18 townships. This generated more than 100 million pounds of recyclable materials that would not enter the local landfills. The Zero Waste Initiative also gave six new recycling-based businesses planning assistance to aid their recycling efforts.

Now the program is trying to extend that momentum to reduce, reuse and recycle to more local businesses in the Southeast Ohio area. Last Thursday the Zero Waste Initiative held a forum and dinner for business owners as well as entrepreneurs who were interested in reducing their waste.  

With approximately 50 people in attendance, the night began with an expert panel discussing ways in which their businesses have already contributed to the Zero Waste Initiative. O'Keefe said that these simple steps that apply to businesses can also apply to families in the community.

"Waste reduction is the easiest step for any business. It's the quickest, it saves the most amount of money and the most amount of energy," he said. "Simple things like thinking about what you're purchasing is a place to start and finding out about local recycling programs is an easy step forward."

O'Keefe said that in 2012 about 35 to 40 businesses were involved in the Zero Waste Initiative program.

After research and data projects, he now believes the number of businesses reducing their waste and adopting recycling programs has almost doubled. These local businesses range from small businesses to larger industries that employ hundreds of people.

Trace's A1 Sanitation
in Logan, Ohio has taken part in the Zero Waste Initiative for the past five years. To reduce its waste, the company set up a recycling drop at the business.

"We take paper, cardboard, plastics, metal, aluminum, tin cans, paper, magazines, the whole nine yards," said Will Reed, Sales Manager at Trace's A1 Sanitation. "We have bins for commingle for people who don't want to sort out the material, they can just throw it all in there."

Another business has found ways to reuse nearly all of the materials it comes across. Joshua Kyae is the founder and owner of Joshua Tree Lawn and Landscape in Athens County. He said that his company is always "looking for close loops" with any project they do.

"If we take out a sidewalk for somebody, we'll take that concrete and sort it into different aggregate sizes," Kyae said. "We'll take the large pieces and build new retaining walls out of it, we'll take the softball size chunks and do driveway establishments and drainage behind retaining walls too."

What is Rural Action?

World waste in relation to Southeast Ohio: