The Recycling Partnership recently marked the official launch of the Small Town Access Fund, a unique funding stream to support recycling programs in U.S. towns with populations of less than 50,000. Impact from 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 per year. According to The Partnership’s Paying It Forward report, 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 it comes to 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, 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.”

Supporting households in communities of all sizes leads to significant impact – an individual household generates an average of 767 pounds of recyclable material per year, 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 such as 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, with additional support from their Maybelline New York brand as well as Arconic Foundation.  In its first year, the Fund is launching 14 projects in 9 states – Indiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, and Wisconsin – with several others in the pipeline for 2023 and beyond.

“As the need to build a more sustainable future continues to be an urgent priority, L’Oréal USA, in partnership with GlobalGiving, and Maybelline New York are proud to launch this Fund with The Recycling Partnership to improve recycling programs. The Fund will expand access for communities across the country with populations of less than 50,000, including many communities in which we operate as a business,” says Marissa McGowan, Chief Sustainability Officer for North America at L’Oréal. “This meaningful work is strongly aligned with our sustainability transformation strategy and bold, measurable targets to help solve environmental challenges facing the U.S. and world today.”

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