Rural and Small Community Recycling and Waste Reduction

About the Project

Michigan rural communities face resource recovery challenges similar to other rural communities across North America. While garbage and trash infrastructure exist for almost every home, the longer distance between stops, very unstable markets for recovered materials, issues with contamination, domination of industry by a handful of national firms, and inadequate recycling infrastructure, profits are slim at best, even though the demand for recycling and recovery services grow.  The Rural and Small Community Recycling and Waste Reduction project addresses this problem and proposes to identify the key features that a successful rural and small town recycling operation needs to succeed by offering alternative approaches to conventional waste hauling business models. 

Localizing waste management offers opportunities for community development. This is possibly even more significant for small and rural communities, as industry trends make it more and more challenging for small and rural communities. The Rural and Small Community Recycling and Waste Reduction project will look at viable options for small and rural communities in Michigan to address waste reduction while strengthening local markets for both profit, nonprofit and community owned enterprises. The research addresses the following questions: 

  1. How might small and rural communities reduce local waste streams while building community wealth and well-being? 
  2. Can community owned or local co-operative ventures provide additional value to the community, while reducing costs and achieving sustainability? 
  3. Can a community-wide effort raise consciousness in communities to the value of waste reduction actions and create opportunities to stimulate enterprises around waste reduction efforts? 
  4. Can local anchor institutions provide the base support to sustain a community owned or local cooperative waste reduction operation? 


Read the Report Here


About the Authors

Terry Link, Greater Laingsburg Recyclers

Terry Link is the retired president of Starting Now LLC, a sustainability consulting firm that helps small business, nonprofits, schools, and government agencies improve their social, environmental and economic performance. Previously he was Executive Director of the Greater Lansing Food Bank, a regional charity that rescued food and developed community gardens to help feed those in need. Before that he was director of Michigan State University's Office of Campus Sustainability, an office he started in 2000. For nearly 25 years he was an academic librarian focusing on public policy and environmental studies. He was elected a county commissioner and was associate editor of the 2014 encyclopedia, Achieving Sustainability: Visions, Principles and Practices (Gale/Cengage). He has served on the boards of numerous non-profit organizations; written and spoken widely on public policy, sustainability, information, environment, food, and education. Terry is currently a member of the Greater Laingsburg Recyclers. 

Bill Stough, Sustainable Research Group

Founder of Sustainable Research Group (SRG) a consultancy that provides sustainability design and management services to advance sustainable business practices for its clients. SRG helps its customers reduce their ecological footprint and increase their value proposition to stakeholders through its unique perspective based on sustainable development principles. Bill has over 30 years experience in environmentally sustainable business initiatives, industrial ecology, pollution prevention and ISO 14001 environmental management systems. He is the founder/organizer of several regional sustainable business networks and was the project manager for the development of the BIFMA e3 Sustainable Furniture Product Standard. Bill has completed over 60 Green Supplier Network Lean and Clean Assessments. He is active in the green manufacturing movement, is the immediate past chair the Sustainable Manufacturing Network and a recent inaugural Sustainable Business Hall of Fame inductee by the West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum.


Project Updates

On October 1st, 2021, this two part webinar series will took place live via zoom.

Session 1: Identifying local opportunities, building relationships & community support 


Session 2: Alternatives for waste reduction beyond basic standard recycling