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Small Town Access Fund Launches to Support Unique Recycling Challenges in Small and Rural Communities Across the U.S.

Fund provides grants to deliver new or improved access and education for the approximately 18,000 small and rural municipalities with populations of less than 50,000 

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Sept. 20, 2022) – 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.” 

When funding is combined with additional grants or when recycling efforts in small communities are aligned with those in nearby towns, the resulting resources and scale can transform the recycling system regionally and potentially statewide. For example, The Partnership leveraged multiple cart grants in New Jersey – one of which was part of the Small Town Access Fund – along with a Partnership material coalition grant for expanded processing capacity to capture nearly 7 million new pounds of recyclables annually and ensure that programs in the region can successfully accept and process common recyclable materials. In addition to material gains, recycling also delivers economic benefits to communities and residents – according to the EPA, 1.17 jobs are created for every ton of material recycled; over 600,000 people are directly employed by recycling in the U.S. today.2 

The Small Town Access Fund is a crucial component of The Recycling Partnership’s long-term strategic objectives to transform the U.S. recycling system and activate a circular economy.  To learn more about supporting the Fund or other Partnership initiatives, visit recyclingpartnership.org. 


About The Recycling Partnership 

At The Recycling Partnership, we are solving for circularity. We mobilize people, data, and solutions across the value chain to unlock the environmental and economic benefits of recycling and a circular economy. We work on the ground with thousands of communities to transform underperforming recycling programs; we partner with companies to achieve packaging circularity, increase access to recycled materials, and meet sustainability commitments; and we work with government to develop policy solutions to address the systemic needs of our residential recycling system and advance a circular economy. We foster public-private partnerships and drive positive change at every step of the recycling and circularity process. Since 2014, we have diverted 770 million pounds of new recyclables from landfills, saved 968 million gallons of water, avoided more than 670,000 metric tons of greenhouse gases, and driven significant reductions in targeted contamination rates. Learn more at recyclingpartnership.org.