Athens-Hocking Recycling Centers Paves the Way to Zero Waste

Taylor Smith
April 10, 2015

The Athens-Hocking Recycling Centers (AHRC) is the service provider for the City of Athens and the Ohio University campus. As early as 1984, recycling drop-off locations and the first curbside program in the State of Ohio were created with the help of the Ohio University Men’s Soccer Team, Atco, Inc. and the Athens City-County Health Department. In 1987, the Athens City-County Board of Health created the non-profit Athens County Recycling Center, Inc., and in 1988, House Bill 592, an Ohio law establishing solid waste districts was passed. Originally, Athens was part of a five-county solid waste district, but by 1994, Athens settled into the current two-county district of Athens and Hocking Counties and became the Athens-Hocking Recycling Centers, Inc. In 2013, AHRC began to further split from the governmental agencies to which it was directly tied (the Athens-Hocking Solid Waste District) to become the more autonomous organization it is today.

Athens-Hocking Recycling Centers 2

Athens County Recycling Center located off County Road 13. Photo by Taylor K. Smith. 

Ohio University Master of Science in Environmental Studies (MSES) alumnus, Bruce Underwood, serves as the public relations and sales coordinator for AHRC. Mr. Underwood has completed his leadership practicum, titled “Environmental Education at a Local Public School District,” and he also serves as a Green School research fellow with the U.S. Green Building Council

AHRC has been making a great deal of progress and quickly expanding in response to the communities’ demand. The center accepts items such as glass bottles, aluminum cans, metal cans, newspaper, glossy and office paper, cardboard and paperboard as well as plastics. The center has long been accepting small-mouth #1 and #2 plastics but in August 2014, the center began accepting #1-7 household plastics of all sizes. Most recently, AHRC expanded its routes to cover more of Athens and Hocking Counties and is now offering unlimited single-stream recycling and refuse pickup to customers with fees comparable to other service providers providing only trash service.

Athens-Hocking Recycling Centers 3

Recovered plastics ready for sale after sorting and processing. Photo by Taylor K. Smith.

Single-stream recycling customers are no longer responsible for sorting their recyclable materials. For a fee of only $20 per month, customers will be provided a 65-gallon container for recyclables and a 35-gallon container for refuse which will be picked up by a single truck, rather than two separate trucks. Pick-up provided by a single truck cuts down on labor and fossil-fuel costs and makes the process easier for the customer. 

As AHRC expands their services and makes the transition to single-stream recycling for all customers, it will be necessary to have a space where all the recycled materials can be sorted. Facilities of this nature are known as Material Recovery Facilities or “MRFs” (pronounced “mirfs”). The AHRC has been approved for a loan to purchase a seven-acre property in the Bill Theisen Industrial Park near The Plains. If all goes well, a local single-stream MRF will be a reality in the very near future, with a goal to be operational by July 2015.

Athens-Hocking Recycling Centers 4

Inside the recycling center where materials are further sorted after drop-off. Photo by Taylor K. Smith. 

A great deal of time and effort is being invested to reduce waste throughout the community of Athens and at the university level. The Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs partnered with Rural Action and the Appalachia Ohio Zero Waste Initiative to create the Ohio University Zero Waste Initiative. Zero waste, by definition, means a 90% diversion rate; or that 90% of the waste created ends up somewhereother than a landfill. This is achieved through reducing waste, recycling, composting, reusing and repurposing. Ohio University currently diverts 65% of the waste created on campus. This semester at Ohio University a new course titled ‘Principles of Zero Waste Management’ was introduced. The course is being taught by Consortium for Energy, Economics & the Environment (CE3) Director, Scott Miller. Students in the class are examining the role that organizations like AHRC play in communities and looking at waste not only as a byproduct of our societal growth, but as a resource as well. The course aims to explore the ways in which communities have been challenged to reinvent their waste management systems. In Mr. Miller’s opinion, it is unlikely that Ohio University will reach its goal of 80% diversion without implementing single-stream recycling. In order to handle the demand being placed on AHRC by the university and community, the MRF is absolutely vital. The MRF not only has the potential to generate more revenue for AHRC as they are able to ramp up operations, but it may also draw new businesses to the area who are hoping to utilize the recovered materials.

As the Athens-Hocking Recycling Centers expands in both size and services, it hopes to keep the community educated and informed so that residents can make the most of these efforts, according to Mr. Underwood. AHRC maintains information about their recycling options on their website. You can also stay updated by following them on Facebook or Twitter. For more information on specific materials accepted by AHRC, you can peruse AHRC’s “Is This Recyclable?” webpage, which lists traditional and non-traditional materials accepted at the drop-off facility. If you still aren’t quite sure if an item you have can be recycled, the lot attendant and other center employees will be happy to guide you through the process.  

Athens-Hocking Recycling Centers 1 

AHRC employees hard at work sorting materials. Photo by Taylor K. Smith.

Due to many local efforts working in concert, the way that we view and manage solid waste is transforming in Athens. It is being seen as a resource rather than a misplaced byproduct, and the potential to create new jobs and opportunities in the community has emerged as a result. As the AHRC, university, and citizens continue to work together, the future of Athens solid waste management looks bright.  

For more about the Appalachia Ohio Zero Waste Initiative, check out this video on YouTube: “Appalachia Ohio Zero Waste Initiative: Changing the Way We Think About Waste Video”.