Alan Hale is a bit of a hero in Logan County, OH. As District Coordinator for the Solid Waste Management District, he doesn’t wear tights or rescue children from burning buildings. He is doing his part for the planet, however, and he’s saving people money and changing attitudes everywhere he goes. Recycling had never been a high priority in this rural county about 60 miles northwest of Columbus. Homes were too spread out for waste haulers to run cost-effective curbside programs in most communities. A major source of waste is tourists, who flock to popular Indian Lake State Park in the summertime. Logan County had a recycling center, but it was small and only open four hours a week. Hale decided to try a different approach. Under his direction, the county built a larger center to be open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Thirty-three-yard containers were set up to accept items such as aluminum cans, glass bottles, plastic and paper. To deal with any nonrecyclable waste that came into the site, the county adopted a “Pay-As-You-Throw” model. Consumers stuffed their trash into green-colored bags available on site for $2 each. Those bags went into a separate dumpster bound for the landfill. People figured out pretty quickly that recycling was a good idea, Hale says. “It completed the equation in people’s heads. They could see: trash, pay. Recycle, free.” The new recycling center was wildly popular, so Hale built another. And another. Logan County now has 14 centers serving its 43,000 residents. One site includes the Center for Hard to Recycle Materials, also called the CHARM Center, where people can drop off materials like tires and household hazardous waste. The center is open 15 times a year between May and October 1. Electronics (with the exception of televisions) can be dropped off year-round. Each recycling center is outfitted with security cameras to combat illegal dumping. Guilty parties get a phone call with two options: They can pick up their item and dispose of it properly, or Hale’s staff can turn their license plate number and photograph over to the local sheriff. Most come get their junk, Hale says. Logan County also built a materials recovery facility (MRF) to sort the recyclables that come into the centers. In the past three months, 1,000 tons of recyclables have passed through the MRF. That’s four times the rate the county used to recycle in the same period. “People stop me on the street all the time and say, ‘This is the best thing the government’s ever done for me,’” Hale says. “It’s saving businesses a lot of money because they don’t need dumpster service.” He recently received the Logan County Citizen of the Year award from the local Kiwanis club. Three years ago, Hale convinced the Logan County Commission to adopt a zero-waste policy, setting in motion a process to plan how Logan County residents can divert 100% of their waste from landfills. Hale’s next step in that plan is recruiting a company to set up a composting facility. Once food waste is out of the picture, Logan County’s recycling rate will top 60%. While Hale acknowledges that this system he has developed won’t work everywhere, he feels it’s a great model for rural counties and places that attract a lot of tourists. “Recycling has become part of the ethic of the county,” he says. “It’s made it really easy for people to get involved. Everyone is jumping on board.” For listings of recycling locations in Ohio, see 1-800-RECYCLING’s recycling location finder.
All Hale Logan County’s Recycling Champion
The Ohio county sets an example for other rural areas to follow when it comes to effective recycling and waste management.