It takes a village to be zero waste. Or in the case of Appalachian Ohio, it takes many villages working together.

That’s how Rural Action and our partner organizations created the Reuse Corridor, which facilitates recycling and upcycling to divert materials from landfills and create new economic opportunities in local communities across the region. The effort had a key additional benefit – it created a network of people working together and sharing ideas to be more effective. This multistate collaboration, made possible through a partnership with the Coalfield Development Corporation, has led to the rapid adoption of Centers for Hard to Recycle Materials (CHaRMs), which focus on materials like mattresses, electronics, and tires.

“We met at the Reuse Corridor meetings and started discussing how we could work off each other, how we could become more efficient on our zero waste goals,” says Rick Jansen, executive director of the Lawrence/Scioto Solid Waste Management District. When Rural Action Zero Waste Director Ed Newman was taking a load of textiles to The Neighborhood in Ashland, Ky., he stopped by Rick’s office and they started brainstorming.

“CHaRMs are a great way to get people together, create partnerships and build on the network of people who are helping with the bigger picture,” Ed says.

The result of that brainstorming session was two successful CHaRM events in 2021 — in Proctorville and Portsmouth – and plans to hold four more in 2022.

“We are seeing a slight decrease in trash that’s being pitched thanks to the CHaRMS,” Rick says. “We had no idea how bad it was when I came to this job. The volume is slowing down a bit but there’s a lot of work to do to get caught up.”

“I can see these mobile CHaRMs being a convenient avenue for a lot of people to get involved in recycling instead of staying on the sidelines because it’s too much effort.”

There’s also a potential economic benefit to processing materials locally instead of sending them to far-flung places.

“There is money in trash,” Rick says. “There is money in recycling. That’s what I’m hoping the end result will be with all these meetings and groups combining their talents.”

As local communities embrace CHaRMS, they’re able to adapt the process to make it their own and meet their needs.

“Our successful partnership highlights why the Zero Waste program is doing mobile CHaRMs across eight counties, and it showcases just how successful these can be and how counties can move forward in planning their own mobile CHaRMs or permanent CHaRMs,” says Rural Action Zero Waste Manager Maria Bonner.

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