Arkansas Communities Benefit From Recycling Grants

A recycling program seemed like an impossible option in rural Stone County in the early 1990s.

The sparse population and rugged terrain meant steep transportation costs that municipalities could not afford and private entities would not accept.

It was only when the state stepped in that community leaders gained the incentive they needed to begin what has turned into a successful recycling effort, said Jan Smith, programs director of the White River Regional Solid Waste Management District.

Stone County now recycles more than 1 million pounds of waste per year, largely because of annual grants awarded by the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality.

This year, ADEQ will award more than $4.12 million to the state’s regional solid waste management districts to fund recycling programs throughout Arkansas.

In Stone County and other rural counties, the state funding helps keep recycling programs afloat, thus keeping waste out of Natural State landfills.

“These grants are the impetus that allowed us to have these successful programs in our counties,” Smith said.

Smith counts seven recycling centers, eight community curbside recyclables collection programs and nine recyclable drop-off programs within the 10-county White River district region.

Every county in her district is rural and “the grants are a life saver,” she said.

“We don’t believe any of this would be happening today or in the last 14 or 15 years without assistance from the recycling grant program,” Smith added.

The Arkansas Legislature created the recycling grant program in 1989 and ADEQ began distributing money two years later.

Under state law, a $1.50 fee is levied on every ton of solid waste received at Arkansas landfills to fund the recycling grant program.

ADEQ disburses grant money to all 18 of the state’s regional solid waste management district annually based on population.

The districts then award financial help to eligible entities, such as cities, counties or public-private partnerships.

The funding mechanism established by the Legislature ensures that the state will continue to provide needed support to recycling efforts, even during tough economic times.

“There are recycling programs throughout Arkansas that rely on our grant funding to help defray administrative costs or to buy necessary equipment,” said ADEQ Director Teresa Marks. “This year-to-year funding for recycling is essential as we practice responsible environmental stewardship.”

Arkansas Pollution Control and Ecology Commission regulations require grant money to be spent on programs, projects or activities that promote increased or improved recycling efforts. Grant-eligible projects include educational programs, purchases of recycling or composting equipment or management of waste transfer stations that collect recyclable materials.

The regional solid waste management districts are required to submit to ADEQ yearly progress reports that detail recycling grant spending. In addition, the districts’ boards must receive from ADEQ pre-application approval of proposed recycling projects.

This year’s recycling grant round began July 1, and all applications must be submitted to a regional solid waste management district.

Information on the grant program, previous grant awards and application guidance can be found on the ADEQ Web site,