Updated Thu, Dec 12, 2013 11:03 am
Members of the Appalachian Ohio Zero Waste Initiative, city and county officials and residents met Tuesday evening to wrap up the planning phase of the Zero Waste Action Plan for Athens and Hocking counties.
“What our big vision that we are striving for is moving toward zero waste in a way that is good for the people, good for the planet and good for our local economy,” said Erin Sykes, administrative assistant for the Zero Waste Initiative.
The group is coordinated by Rural Action, partnered with the Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs at Ohio University, and receives funding from the Sugar Bush Foundation.
The group started meeting in 2010 when everyone identified problems within the two-county area and brainstormed goals to fix them. Sykes said the goals are to shift thinking about waste and make recycling and composting easier for residents.
The group broke into five working groups to come up with action steps to move the two counties forward toward zero waste. The working groups focused on infrastructure and access; illegal dumping and burning; hard to recycle materials, business development and education and outreach.
Hocking County Health Commissioner Doug Fisher worked with the illegal dumping and burning group. He said he is glad people are working together to make the communities healthier.
“Today’s world we are working in is a waste society and it was just really inspiring when we worked together in these groups and came out of there thinking there is going to be a day soon that we can say the betterment of our communities is second to a zero-waste society,” Fisher said.
Each working group came up with a four-step action plan. The steps include goals such as increasing the frequency of recycling events, having a full-time educational program, building a relationship between non-profit organizations and local businesses, increasing rural recycling opportunities and raising awareness about illegal dumping issues.
Athens Mayor Paul Wiehl said when the program first started he wasn’t quite sure if zero waste was possible, but now feels that the two communities are closer to the goal.
“Zero waste is still way out there and there are going to be a lot of steps but I am glad we are taking them,” Wiehl said. “We can’t just throw this stuff over our shoulders forever.”
The group will have another meeting in January to launch its Athens Hocking Zero Waste Committee that will have subcommittees to focus on different parts of the plan to implement.
“We know we have a long way to go, but we are moving in the right direction,” Sykes said.