The Athens Messenger, September 14, 2012
Turning trash into an economic development tool was the focus of the two-day Waste to Wealth Summit organized by Rural Action’s Zero Waste Initiative this week. About 125 people gathered at the Ohio University Inn to discuss the recycling challenges in rural Ohio. Not only were local residents and officials involved in the summit, but also state officials and national speakers.
Athens is part of a two-county solid waste district with Hocking County. The district has seen challenges such as low recycling participation rates and lack of access to recycling in rural parts of the region.
The Zero Waste Initiative is just beginning its third year of operation with the mission to work with communities, governments and organizations to reduce waste going to landfills while promoting economic development.
According to Kyle O’Keefe, Zero Waste Initiative coordinator with Rural Action, the summit was marketed to those in the tri-state area of Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia, however ideas and suggestions came from as wide of a region as New Mexico and North Carolina.
In addition to trying to find ways to increase recycling in the solid waste district, the Zero Waste Initiative is working to promote economic development by encouraging people to start businesses that use recycled products, reuse or compost.
The keynote speaker at the Waste to Wealth Summit was Neil Seldman, president for the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, which is based in Washington, D.C. The institute promotes environmentally sound economic development.
Seldman said he works to recruit companies that recycle, fix reusable items and do composting. He said there are a handful of businesses he’s been in touch with that are interested in locating in the Athens area.
“They just want to make sure the raw materials are available, which they are,” Seldman said.
Companies he said there are interested in coming to the area include Greys Paper Recycling Industries Ltd., which is based in Edmonton, Canada; plastics company Coon Manufacturing of Spickard, Mo.; St. Vincent de Paul thrift stores of Eugene, Ore.; and Bioponica Sustainable Farming Systems of Georgia.
For information about Rural Action’s Zero Waste Initiative, visit www.ruralaction.org/programs/zerowaste