Recycling dollars
Mcarrel | Dreamstime

The Recycling Partnership launches the Small Town Access Fund

The goal of the fund is to support unique recycling challenges in small and rural communities across the U.S.

September 22, 2022

The Recycling Partnership has launched the Small Town Access Fund, a funding stream to support recycling programs in U.S. towns with populations of less than 50,000.   

According to a news release from The Partnership, the impact of seed funding is estimated to bring new or improved access and education to nearly 45,000 households in nine states, which will deliver more than 6 million pounds of new recyclables into the system and out of landfills annually.   

The Partnership’s Paying It Forward report states four in 10 single-family residents lack equitable recycling access, equating to more than 40 million people who do not have the same access to recycling service as they have to their trash service. Small and rural communities often face unique challenges when implementing and maintaining robust recycling programs.   

Common issues include lack of dedicated recycling staff, geographic challenges, including long distances from homes to materials recovery facilities (MRFs) and financial limitations due to lower population density and the higher per household collections costs that can be associated with smaller programs. Additionally, many small communities without curbside recycling systems rely on drop-off locations for recycling, presenting a different set of education and maintenance issues than curbside access programs.   

“We are thrilled to have a dedicated granting stream to assist smaller and rural communities in their efforts to provide residents with quality recycling access and education,” says Rob Taylor, senior director of grants and community development. “We all have a role to play in the circular economy, and supporting efficient, resilient recycling programs in these communities will make it easier for residents to recycle, support local jobs and create a valuable supply of recyclable materials to be transformed into new products.”   

The Partnership says supporting households in communities of all sizes leads to a significant impact, an individual household generates an average of 767 pounds of recyclable material annually, and there are more than 18,000 incorporated municipalities in the U.S. with populations under 50,000. The Small Town Access Fund can help alleviate the specific challenges these communities face, like higher per household collection costs and higher per cart costs from purchasing equipment in smaller quantities.    

The Small Town Access Fund was launched with a founding donation from L’Oréal USA, in partnership with GlobalGiving. It had additional support from its Maybelline New York brand and Arconic Foundation. In its first year, the fund is launching 14 projects in nine states, including Indiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio and Wisconsin. The Partnership says several other states are in the pipeline for 2023 and beyond.   

When funding is combined with additional grants or when recycling efforts in small communities are aligned with those in nearby towns, the resulting resources and scale can transform the recycling system regionally and potentially statewide. The Partnership says it leveraged multiple cart grants in New Jersey, one of which was part of the Small Town Access Fund, along with a Partnership material coalition grant for expanded processing capacity. The goal was to capture about 7 million new pounds of recyclables annually and ensure that programs in the region accept and process common recyclable materials. In addition to material gains, recycling also delivers economic benefits to communities and residents. According to the EPA, 1.17 jobs are created for every ton of material recycled and more than 600,000 people are directly employed by recycling in the U.S. today.   

The Recycling Partnership says the Small Town Access Fund is a crucial component of its long-term strategic objectives to transform the U.S. recycling system and activate a circular economy. To learn more about supporting the Fund or other Partnership initiatives, click here.