June 1994 // Volume 32 // Number 1 // Ideas at Work // 1IAW2

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An Issue-Based Program on Solid Waste

The Extension staff of Lake County, Ohio addressed the problem of solid waste management education. Each program area took leadership in one or more of the following topics: yard waste and composting, consumer choices, environmental shopping, household hazardous waste, youth programs, recycling, and business waste. Traditional and innovative teaching techniques and a strong media campaign were used to educate the public. As a result, the county solid waste district has provided over $1.1 million for the office to serve as the public information center for their 10-year waste management plant. The success of this interdisciplinary, issue-based effort has led to increased visibility with residents, the business community, and decision makers. This, in turn, has led to increased resources to expand Extension educational programming.

William G. Owen
County Extension Agent
Lake County
The Ohio State University Extension
Painesville, Ohio
Internet address: owen.@osu.edu

Solid Waste Management has been a community and natural resource development program topic in Lake County, Ohio for more than 20 years. When both a needs assessment survey and a community leaders' forum identified the topic as the most significant local problem, a multidisciplinary approach to the problem was adopted. The county Extension team established three goals for the program: a) educate residents about the problems associated with solid waste disposal, b) encourage individual actions to reduce solid waste, and c) assist with the establishment of community programs to reduce solid waste.

Agents in each program area took leadership for a facet of waste management. Yard waste management and composting was addressed by the agricultural staff. Consumer choices, environmental shopping and household hazardous waste disposal education was coordinated by the home economics staff. The 4-H staff planned programs for youth, and the community development staff addressed recycling, community, and business programs.

A request for funding was made to the Lake County Solid Waste District Board. The Board was responsible for developing a 10-year solid waste management plan for Lake County. The Board saw the benefits of a coordinated public information program and provided a $27,000 grant to start the process. That grant has grown to over $118,000 each of the past two years.

We used both traditional and innovative teaching techniques to meet our goals. Since 1990, 934 group presentations on solid waste topics were made for more than 44,000 residents. Educational displays at community events were viewed by 90,000 individuals. An extensive media campaign was initiated and generated 306 news releases, 74 radio spots, and 28 television appearances, four of which aired nationally. We helped nine communities and numerous businesses establish waste reduction or recycling programs. In July 1993, a county-wide curbside recycling program for 72,000 households was implemented.

Extension established a county wide clean-up (which involves more than 15,000 people annually), an office paper recycling program, and several waste oil, battery, and household hazardous waste collection programs. Innovative yard waste programs included a Christmas tree chipping program, a "Don't Bag It" program, and production of two video tapes. As a result of yard waste programs, 50,000 cubic yards of leaves will be applied directly on farmland this fall.

The Lake County Solid Waste District Board asked Extension to serve as its public information center and incorporated many of the pilot projects in their 10-year waste management plan. The Extension Office will receive over $1.1 million in the next 10 years to fulfill that role. Besides meeting the original goals, the solid waste program has provided increased visibility with residents, the business community, and decision makers. This has led to increased resources, including additional staff, to conduct Extension programming.

The success of Lake County's solid waste education program is not due to one individual or staff in one program area, but to all Extension professionals in all program areas working on one issue. It has shown us that the whole can definitely be bigger than the sum of the individual parts.