A successful, sustainable community needs a recycling program. Keeping waste materials out of landfills reduces our impact on the environment, minimizes costs for residents, and creates economic opportunities. This is difficult to accomplish in a small town or rural areas, but the Greater Laingsburg Recyclers (GLR) have developed an approach in its community, and it may be a model for others.
In 2020 the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) awarded a $50,000 grant for the development of a drop-off recycling center in Laingsburg. GLR led local fundraising throughout 2021 to gain an additional $50,000, and the Cook Family Foundation awarded $15,000. The new recycling center is on property owned by the Laingsburg School District; and the City of Laingsburg acts as the project fiduciary.
Volunteers provide the muscle for recycling efforts in Laingsburg. Before recently incorporating as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, the Greater Laingsburg Recyclers was a collection of volunteers who had come together for 33 years. As part of the Foundation’s NonProfit Capacity Building program, consultants from Nonprofit Network will be working with GLR to determine how best to structure themselves to ensure the long-term viability of the organization and the center. A volunteer labor force helps reduce the cost of recycling, improves the quality of materials sold, and helps foster a stronger community.
In small towns and townships, the lack of volume and a dispersed population makes recycling challenging. Most for-profit recyclers will not serve rural areas, and smaller communities find that the complex market for recycled materials makes it very difficult to economically operate a recycling program. The Greater Laingsburg Recyclers are proving that the nimbleness that comes with a small organization, the ability to pre-sort materials, and committed volunteers can be a formula for success, at least in their corner of the world.
Some of the organizers of GLR have been working with Michigan State University to identify the components for successful recycling in rural counties and small towns. A report (find a link to the report here) was recently issued that highlights the project in Laingsburg and other efforts in Michigan. With support from the Cook Family Foundation, GLR will be sharing some of its lessons learned with other communities in Shiawassee County and beyond.
See the television news coverage of the event here (news story starts at the 2 minute mark, courtesy of News 10 WILX) https://www.vuit.com/publishers/330/wilx#vod:20459974