INTERVIEW with Nexida Feliciano, Community Outreach Coordinator
Division of Recycling
What do you do to support sustainable development in Ohio?
The single most important thing an individual can do to help communities achieve sustainable development is to make sure that government agencies and residents are putting these issues at the top of their agenda. I work with local Ohio communities to promote a variety of reuse, recycling and litter prevention programs. Our division provides grant funds to local communities for reuse and recycling projects including recycling collection, processing of recyclables and generating demand for recycled-content products.
Reuse and recycling foster sustainable development by conserving energy and resources and conserving land space that would otherwise be used to bury trash and garbage.
What type of materials can local communities recycle?
Almost any material or product can be recycled. However, there are practical limitations to recycling many materials. For example, products or packaging made of multiple materials can be costly and technically difficult to separate for recycling. This is why traditional recyclables include aluminum and steel cans, bottles made of a single type of plastic or glass and specific types of paper and cardboard.
In addition to traditional recyclables, our division also helps local communities recycle electronics, appliances, home and business construction and demolition debris, food waste and old tires. The photos on the left show a local community computer recycling collection drive. After the computers are collected, they are taken to a recycling facility where they are disassembled so many of the parts can be recycled.
How does recycling save energy and resources?
Recycling saves energy and resources in the manufacturing process, since the materials have already undergone processing, and recycling saves scarce land space that would otherwise be used to bury the trash.
A lifecycle analysis compares the energy and resources required to collect and reprocess a recyclable material with the energy and resources required to make the same product from virgin material. Lifecycle analysis studies indicate that most, but not all, recycled content products save energy and resources.
Waste material diverted from landfills represent a natural resource that was harvested, mined or produced. So when these items are reused or remanufactured into new products, this shows that we truly appreciate the fine balance between using our resources and conserving them for future generations.
How can a community decide what to recycle?
The first thing to do is conduct a waste audit to discover what waste materials are being generated. In 2002 our division funded a statewide waste characterization study. It is a classic study of how to conduct a waste audit. Some local communities rely on this study rather than doing a local study. Individual businesses, public agencies and schools often conduct their own waste audits, because the type and quantity of materials they generate may differ from what is generated by the whole community.
After conducting a waste audit, a local community, or other group, needs to find someone who will take the recyclable materials they plan to collect. Recycling collectors usually only take materials they can sell to a buyer. In turn, buyers, such as a paper manufacturer, will only buy old newspaper from a recycler if it is cheaper to use old newspaper to make a new paper product than it is to use virgin paper stock.
We can all be good citizens and recycle our trash, but without an economic incentive to collect and use recyclable material, it is likely to end up at the landfill. Because the economics of our market system often dictate what can be recycled, our division helps promote recycling markets by finding buyers for recycled materials and promoting consumer purchase of recycled-content products. One example are fans made from recycled beverage cans.
What is most challenging about your job?
Many people think that Ohioan’s should recycle more of their waste, but people disagree on the best way to go about it. This makes it very challenging to assist local communities to plan all the components of a successful recycling program, including collection, education and awareness initiatives and securing buyers for collected materials. Often the greatest challenge is changing the behaviors of those who do not currently recycle.