The Stakeholders in Rural Recycling (Blog 3)

To recap my topic, I am focusing on making recycling more efficient in small, rural communities who do not have quite as large of a budget to work with as many other places. Mecklenburg County’s recycling program has not changed or improved much over the past years since its implementation. The only means of recycling offered to the citizens are eight drop-off locations scattered around the county, most of which only accept newspaper, cardboard, and aluminum.

There are several key stakeholders in this situation. The first and most obvious are the citizens of Mecklenburg County. Currently, it is extremely inconvenient for people to recycle, and even when they can, much of their trash still goes to the dump regardless because of the small amount of acceptable material. These residents have a vested interested due to the fact that they would be able to help their community and environment without having to go out of their way to do so. This brings me to another key stakeholder in the issue: the environment. Now it’s obvious that plants and animals are not able to voice their opinions on the subject; however, if they could, I feel that it is safe to assume that they would be for a more efficient recycling program. They wildlife would be able to reproduce and grow in a cleaner environment. The final major stakeholder would be the local government within Mecklenburg County. Whereas the citizens and environment would be for the recycling program, the local government would be more opposed. Most of the opposition would come from a monetary aspect. The main argument against implementing a more efficient system would be that the financial investment would outweigh the actually benefits of recycling.

Aside from these three main stakeholders, there are several secondary stakeholders as well; for example, the local governments of other small, rural communities. If a more efficient recycling program was placed in effect in Mecklenburg County and was successful, areas with similar populations and budgets would have a model to go by. Along with the local governments, the citizens of those communities would also have a vested interested. They would be able to influence their officials to follow the example set by Mecklenburg County and be able to partake in the practice of conserving the environment by means of recycling. Other stakeholders would be agencies, groups, and non-profit organizations that focus on recycling and benefitting the environment in general. These groups would be for the implementation of this program because it could eventually lead to other communities doing the same. In fact, with the proper information and proposal, these groups may be interested in donating money to assist with startup costs. If that were to happen, it would be a crucial victory in gaining the local government’s support on the issue.

As for my critical source, I stumbled upon a document created by several groups of students at universities in Mexico. The opening statement in the abstract describes my roadblock with finding examples perfectly: “Globally there is a lack of knowledge about waste generation and composition in rural areas because these types of studies have been conducted mainly in big cities” (Sara). This document was a report of a study conducted by these individuals in Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico.  The students begin by describing the area of their study, which seems to be roughly about the size of my focus area from what I can gather. They then go on to describe the method being used in the area, which is verbatim to the process utilized in Mecklenburg County, Virginia. The part that was the most useful to me throughout the material presented was their breakdown of waste composition. They concluded that organic materials (food residuals, wood, paper and cardboard, leather, etc.) accounted for 56% of the waste, non-organic materials (aluminum, glass, batteries, ferrous materials, etc.) accounted for 33% of the waste, and the remaining 11% was credited to a miscellaneous category.  They then noted that roughly 1/3 of the weight were materials that could easily be recycled (paper and cardboard, plastic, aluminum, and wood). This proves that a considerable amount of waste taken to landfills could be easily recycled with the correct process.

 

Works Cited

Sara Ojeda-Benitez, et al. “Household solid waste characteristics and management in rural communities.” Open Waste Management Journal (2010): 167-173. Environment Complete. Web. 25 Sept. 2013.

The History of Recycling in America (Blog 2)

For centuries, individuals have made strives to preserve the environment by means of reusing, re-purposing, and recycling materials. To review the topic, the basic definition of recycling is to use something again. This definition can take on several meanings: reusing an item instead of disposing of it, using items for a purpose with which they were not intended to prevent the need of disposal, or disposing of it so that it may be broken down into a more raw state to be used again.

Throughout the history of the United States of America (back when the states were merely colonies still controlled by England), colonists were positioned across the Atlantic Ocean from the mineral mines and factories of Europe. To compensate for this unfortunateness, the colonists were forced to repurpose their materials for other uses, and to repair tools and other goods. This was the first serious act of recycling displayed in the New World.

One of the first drops in the interest of recycling began during the Industrial Revolution in America. During this time, advances in transportation and infrastructure made the access to minerals across the country much more available. Because of this, reusing and repurposing of materials dropped. Fortunately for the environment, World War II completely changed things. Imports that were heavily relied on (tin and aluminum for example), were now extremely hard to get a hold of. These imports were of utmost importance for military purposes. This sudden need for materials reignited the flame that once was the importance placed on recycling in the United States of America. Following World War II, recycling in America took another hit. Due to the introduction of new technologies and manufacturing methods, the importance and need for recycling was once again lost.

However, in the mid-1960’s, recycling began to make a comeback due to the importance placed on environmental awareness. During this rebirth, a good deal of time and money was placed into figuring out the most effective way to recycle wastes. Unfortunately, many of these processes had harmful side effects that outweighed the benefit. For example, the pollution caused by material recovery plants shadowed the positive aspect of recycling – not to mention that the cost of building and operating such facilities were outrageous. One breakthrough in the recycling efforts arrived during the mid-1980’s. With the introduction of curbside collection programs, recycling was made significantly more convenient for individuals. Recently, several cities across the country have stepped up and accepted the role of being an example to the rest of the country in how efficient recycling is feasible.

I had planned on including information on the history of recycling within Mecklenburg County, Virginia (where I will be focusing on). However, the counties website does not offer any relevant information and I was not able to successfully set up a phone conversation with the head of sustainability for the county. I do plan on having this conversation at some point next week. At that point, I will be creating an additional blog to include historical information that relates directly to the area that I will be proposing my ideas to.

Works Cited

“History Of American Recycling.” Waste Management. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Sept. 2013.

 

*MLA formatting used

Defining Your Issue (Blog 1)

The social issue that I am looking at revolves around recycling in small, rural communities. Specifically, I will be looking at Mecklenburg County, Virginia (which is approximately the size of Prince Edward County) and my hometown of Clarksville, Virginia. There are countless benefits to recycling; the most prominent of these is the positive affect on the environment. While recycling has come a long way in the larger cities, it has still not quite caught on quite as well in small places, Mecklenburg County for example. The biggest problem with recycling in Mecklenburg County is its inconvenience. Many citizens want to recycle because of its benefits; however curbside collection is not for recycling and recycling bins are significantly lets bountiful than the large green dumpsters. Furthermore, the recycling bins that are available in Mecklenburg County require that the materials already be separated. This sorting of materials takes a decent amount of time (depending on how much waste you produce) that many people are not willing to put forth. One of the last problems with the recycling in Mecklenburg County ties back in with the sorting problem. Many items are not accepted to be recycled. This gives most citizens the mindset that since much of their waste will end up in the landfill regardless; therefore, only recycling a portion of it will not be as beneficial. The stakeholders in the situation are: the citizens of Mecklenburg County, the environment itself (including all of the plants and animals), and future generations of people who plan to live in Mecklenburg County. The main position supporting a better recycling program revolves around the environmental benefits of doing so. The main position opposing a better recycling program is based off of information that the costs of updating the program would outweigh the benefits produced by it, making it not feasible. The critical source that I used to assist in defining my issue came from Dr. Joe E. Heimlich at Ohio State University (http://ohioline.osu.edu/cd-fact/0108.html). Dr. Heimlich states that the main reasons for recycling revolve around the environment, more specifically the idea of saving energy and resources. With respect the energy, Dr. Heimlich uses examples of how much less it takes to create consumer products out of recycled materials versus starting the process from scratch. In terms of resources, the benefits are rather obvious; using recycled materials allows natural resources to be saved. Dr. Heimlich then begins to discuss the problems that citizens have with recycling, many of which are the same as the ones that I have previously mentioned. Aside from taking a reasonable amount of time to sort through and separate everything, Dr. Heimlich also discusses that lack of immediate reward for recycling, primarily a lack of monetary rewards. He suggests that many individuals, groups, and communities feel that they should be paid to recycle their wastes. Dr. Heimlich also touches on the problems with the actual process of recycling. The first is the costs associated. A materials recovery facility must be built, workers must be paid to operate the facility, and workers must be paid to market and sell the recycled products. Another problem is contamination. If paper comes into contact with other waste, liquid waste in particular, it is considered contaminated and must be cleaned before it can be sold.