Thanks to grant money from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Washington, D.C., 12 counties are using recycled glass as a road base and two employees at a New Hampshire recycling company were able to start their own business in 1997.
Since its inception in 1994, the EPA's Jobs Through Recycling (JTR) program has awarded $8 million in grants to 39 states, four multi-state organizations and five Native American tribes.
JTR's goal is to create jobs, expand recyclable markets and stimulate economic development by providing funding in four categories: recycling and reuse business assistance centers; recycling economic development advocates; investment forums; and demonstration programs.
While funding for the JTR program recently has been cut, "Some states have really benefited from the grants," says John Leigh, JTR project coordinator. "They seized the opportunity and built on it by creating real programs."
Two such states include Minnesota and New Hampshire.
"Without exception, the funds have been very useful,' says Chris Cloutier, market development coordinator for the Minnesota Office of Environmental Assistance, St. Paul.
In 1993, the state used a $400,000 grant to create a reuse and recycling business assistance center. Four temporary positions were created, one of which has become permanent. The center conducted research to develop markets for plastic, wood fiber and composite recyclables.
In 1997, the office received another $250,000 grant to develop markets for glass, latex paint and polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic, enabling the office to add three additional temporary positions.
A total of 12 counties in Minnesota now are using ground glass for the road base layer beneath the pavement, which costs about the same as conventional road materials, Cloutier says.
Additionally, his office is assisting a developer, who is interested in opening a paint recycling facility and exploring the use of PET plastic by local injection-molders.
New Hampshire also has benefited from JTR grants. In 1995, the state used $89,000 to open a Recycling Market Development Office, Concord, with a full-time coordinator.
Two entrepreneurs also have been able to use JTR's resources. Gary DiRusso and a friend who worked at an electronics recycling company in Newfields, N.H., attended one of JTR's investment forums. The networking opportunities and the advice they received from investors at the forum gave the pair enough confidence to start their own business by purchasing the financially strapped company where they worked.
DiRusso and his friend developed a business plan that attracted an investment partner, who helped launch the new company, DMC Electronics Recycling Co.
"[The forum] forced us to put pencil to paper,' says DiRusso, vice president and general manager of the Newfields, N.H.-based company. DMC, which specializes in repairing and recycling computer and electronic equipment, started with six employees and has expanded to 50 employees. It recently won a contract from the U.S. Department of Defense, Washington, D.C., which has resulted in 15 new positions.
The EPA grants are especially welcome because New Hampshire does not have state or income taxes, which makes it more difficult to acquire funding, says Jacqueline Badders, coordinator of the state's recycling office.
"The grant program's been vital to our efforts," she says. "Without the EPA we couldn't do any of this."
Her position was paid for by the 1998 $89,000 grant and the 1997 $82,500 grant. The Office of State Planning has proposed funding for her job in the 1999-2000 budget, which faces approval by the state legislature.
The department has held recycling seminars, helped create committees on recycling topics and coordinated a directory of recycling manufacturers. A booklet, "How to Grow Your Recycling Business in New Hampshire," also is in the works, and the department's website [www.ded.state.nh.us/obid/recycling] includes a networking server that allows industry professionals to share ideas and swap information on market development, projects and other recycling issues.
Despite the success stories, funding for the JTR grants is declining.
In 1994, $2.5 million was made available through a special initiative of the EPA administrator, and grant totals averaged about $1.5 million per year through 1998.
In 1999, the total amount available has dropped to $700,000, Leigh says.
"I feel there's a lot more to do in the area of recyclables," he says. "We can still do a lot with it, but we're also aware that the EPA has other priorities. Realistically speaking, it will be a real struggle to get more funding."
With less grant money, JTR is focusing on other ways to improve recycling efforts. The program has a website that includes financing tips, technical assistance, profiles on grant recipients and a NetShare archive of website messages.
JTR also organizes an annual Recycling Market Development Roundtable for industry professionals to share ideas, which was held in San Francisco in April.
"We feel the federal role is important given the decrease in awareness of the need to improve recycling markets," Leigh says. "Market development needs are equally as great as in 1994 when the program got underway. We are concentrating on information sharing and networking."
Given the decline in EPA funding, Leigh isn't sure about the future of the grant program.
"It's up in the air," he says. "There's a chance we won't be able to make grants available next year." And while grants of up to $200,000 will be awarded in 1999, it is too late to apply for this year's grants.
Last year, the EPA designated $700,000 to the program for 1999, but the number of recipients has not been determined.
First time recipients will be required to match 25 percent of the grant, and second- and third-time applicants to match 50 percent.
For more information, call John Leigh, JTR project coordinator, at (703) 308-7896 or visit the JTR website: www.epa.gov/jtr