Northwest Arkansas should expand recycling to keep more of the entire process in the region, from collection to companies that buy the products, according to a report released Wednesday by the Northwest Arkansas Council. The effort will require collaboration among more than 30 cities, two solid-waste districts and hundreds of private haulers and companies, but it can be done, according to the report.

The Sustainability Consortium and the Northwest Arkansas Council spent a year studying recycling in the region to come up with recommendations to keep more waste out of landfills. The Walmart Foundation paid for the study that included Benton, Washington and Madison counties. The cost of the study was not provided. The Sustainability Consortium is a global organization that works with companies in the supply chain. The Northwest Arkansas Council is an economic development organization that collaborates with cities, schools and nonprofits on a number of issues.

The region needs better data on what recyclable material is collected and where it goes, said Sarah Lewis, director of innovation for the consortium. That way, everyone involved can figure out what facilities are needed and which companies would benefit, she said. A regional coordinator is necessary to get cities, solid-waste districts and private haulers on the same page, according to the report. Right now, most cities report what materials and how much they collect to the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality on handwritten forms, according to the report. Private haulers aren’t required to report, although some do so voluntarily.

Fayetteville runs its own recycling program, while Springdale, Rogers and Bentonville contract their services to private companies. “The first step for this community is to get coordinated, get organized and improve data collection,” Lewis said. “Through that, you build transparency. From there, you look at what kind of end markets we can create.”

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Author: Stacy Ryburn, Arkansas Democrat Gazette
Image: NWA Democrat-Gazette/J.T.WAMPLER