Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Lack of recycling in rural areas is a big reason 14 percent of Americans still don't have it

"Industry experts agree that rural areas, which make up 16 percent of the population, are a big reason why 14 percent of all Americans still lack access to recycling, according to Environmental Protection Agency estimates," writes Brian Eason for the Asbury Park (N.J.) Press.

In some rural areas, people would need to drive over 100 miles just to recycle paper and plastic. In Mississippi, only half the citizens have access to a recycling program. Mark Williams, an administrator for the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality, says the problem stems mainly from spread-out populations and long distances. "It is difficult for a rural state," he told Eason. "And I tell people we have to work harder to be successful."

Fewer than 20 percent of Mississippians participate in a local recycling program," Eason writes. "Wyoming, the second-least-densely populated state in the country, diverts only 15 percent of its waste to recycling or compost, half of the national average of 30 percent," Eason writes.

The reluctance to participate in drop-off programs may be a result of its inconvenience, but curbside programs haven't been much more successful. In Columbus and West Point, Ga., only 354 households out of 14,000 signed up for the service. The route would have been 571 miles long, Philip Crossley, a district manager for Waste Pro USA, told Eason. The program ended in September, after two years.

One strategy to encourage rural people to participate in recycling programs is showing that "recycling and jobs go hand in hand," Eason writes. "Recycling generates four to five times as many jobs as landfills does because you're using the materials over and over again," Williams said.

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