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Alternatives to Waste Disposal


The source for the image on the right is the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Online:


Solid waste disposal is a major concern in rural areas. It potentially threatens public health, ruins the environment, and hinders economic development because of an overall poor impression of the area. Communities need to become creative in their methods for disposing or managing solid waste from plastics and paper to motor oil and yard waste. Where and how to begin is a critical issue for all communities, especially rural communities with limited resources. This guide serves as a starting point for small communities and concerned individuals to examine the issues and begin to plan feasible programs. It provides web links to full-text information resources available on the different aspects of solid waste disposal: recycling, composting, specific recyclable materials, household hazardous wastes, collection methods, and more. The Additional Resources section provides contact information for community officials and decision-makers.

This resource guide was revised by Patricia LaCaille John, March 2005.
Rural Information Center Publication Series; no. 58 2005. Beltsville, MD.
Last Modified: May 2014

The use of trade, firm, or corporation names in this publication (or page) is for the information and convenience of the reader. Such use does not constitute an official endorsement or approval by the United States Department of Agriculture or the Agricultural Research Service of any product or service to the exclusion of others that maybe suitable.
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Internet Resources


  1. "Avoiding a Rural Public Relations Nightmare." Corrie Lynne Player. World Wastes, 40, no. 1 (1997): 62-65.

    A case-study of one Midwestern town illustrates the potential problems with siting a new landfill. A four-step plan highlights the public relations tactics to overcome some of the problems. Cooperation between government officials and citizens is the key.

  2. City of Eureka: Rural Waste Reduction. Sacramento, CA: Integrated Waste Management Board.

    Case study describing the main themes of the School Waste Education Project focus on buying smart to reduce waste and reusing waste materials. Fourth graders learn from local high school students who produce lessons on waste reduction, using puppetry and skits.

  3. "Collecting Rural Recyclables at the Road." Ted Siegler and Porter Ball. Resource Recycling: North Americas Recycling Journal, 13, no. 2 (1994): 57-62. [PDF File]

    Describes the methodology and results of the comparisons of two rural communities in Vermont. Studies Cornwall and Orwell to determine which methods of recycling were more effective and more cost-effective.

  4. "Country Roads." Russ Short. WasteAge, Feb.1,2008 Electronic Issue.

    Article on Collection of recyclables in rural areas, roadside collection. Participation among rural and semi-rural areas is lower than urban areas because many times getting materials to the roadside is not right out their front door. The size of the container used at roadside and transporting it a distance are key reasons for lower participation.

  5. Decision Aids for Municipal Solid Waste Management in Rural Areas: An Annotated Bibliography. Mississippi State, MS: Southern Rural Development Center, 1995, 34 p.

    Bibliography focuses on resources for collection and transferring, waste reduction, waste disposal, and facilitating solid waste management.

  6. Decision-Maker's Guide to Solid Waste Management. 2nd ed. EPA530-R-95-023. Washington, DC: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Solid Waste, 1997.

    Provides detailed information that can help communities successfully implement integrated municipal solid waste managment programs. Covers key technical, legal, economic, political, and social issues that must be addressed to develop effective waste management programs. Includes detailed guidance on collection and transfer, source reduction, recycling, composting, combustion, and land disposal of solid waste.

  7. "An Examination of Rural Recycling Drop-Off Participation." Thomas W. Blaine, Kimberly D. Mascarella, and DeAnna N. Davis. Journal of Extension, 39, no. 5 (2001).

    Describes procedure implemented by Mahoning County, OH to conduct a survey of residents in order to identify characteristics of those who use the drop-off sites and what residents' views are concerning these sites.

  8. A Guidebook for Rural Solid Waste Management Services. Gerald A. Doeksen and others. Mississippi State, MS: Southern Rural Development Center, 1993, 128 p.

    Provides information useful to decisionmakers in evaluating the economic feasibility of various alternative solid waste systems in small communities and rural areas in the South.

  9. "How to Plan a Rural Transfer Station." Carol Roberts. World Wastes, 40, no. 5 (1997): 58-62.

    Describes how North Platte, Nebraska planned and built a transfer station for wastes generated within a 25 mile radius of the facility.

  10. "How To Prepare A Rural Waste Plan." Debra Siniard Stinnett. World Wastes, 38, no. 7 (1995): 29-38.

    Provides a detailed "how-to" overview for the process of preparing a rural waste plan.

  11. How to Start or Expand a Recycling Collection Program. EPA530-F-94-007, Washington, DC: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Solid Waste and Emergency Response, 1994, 4 p. [PDF File]

    Provides basic information on establishing recycling collection programs in any setting, but focuses on collection in offices. Also provides suggestion on ways to expand or improve an existing collection program.

  12. Illegal Dumping Prevention Guidebook. EPA 905-B-97-001. Chicago: U.S. EPA Region 5, Waste, Pesticides and Toxics Division, 1998, 30 p. [PDF File]

    Contains general information about illegal dumping and guidance for developing a prevention program. Intended for use by state, tribal, county, local government authorities; community groups and civic organizations; industry; and, utilities (such as railroads and power companies).

  13. Integrated Solid Waste Management for Rural Areas: A Planning Tool Kit for Solid Waste Managers. Jim Stokoe and Elizabeth Teague. Washington, DC: USDA Rural Utilities Service, 1995, 118 p. [PDF File]

    Provides a rudimentary set of tools to help address the challenges of solid waste management, with a focus on waste reduction. A first step at sharing experiences of a regional council of governments in applying strategic planning principles, group problem solving, public involement processes, business development, and regional approaches to solid waste management and waste reduction.

  14. Joining Forces on Solid Waste Management Regionalization is Working in Rural and Small Communities.EPA530-K-93-001. Washington, DC: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Solid and Waste Emergency Response. 1994. 40 p.

    Showcases the techniques and results that may be achieved through cooperation between agencies and individuals for managing solid waste in rural areas.

  15. Measuring Recycling: A Guide for State and Local Governments. EPA530-R-97-011. Washington, DC: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Solid Waste and Emergency Response, 1997, 163 p. [PDF File]

    Describes in detail the voluntary, standard methodology for measuring recycling rates developed by EPA. Also includes a glossary, standard volume-to-weight conversion factors, and other useful tools.

  16. Organic Materials Management Strategies. EPA530-R-99-016. Washington, DC: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Solid Waste and Emergency Response, 1999. [PDF File]

    Describes seven composting strategies for organic materials in the U.S. municipal solid waste stream and presents an analysis of the benefits and costs of each strategy, the potential for diverting organic materials from landfills or waste-to-energy facilities, and the potential markets for diverted organic materials.

  17. Rural Recycling Resource Kit Version 2.0. Justin Stockdale. Santa Fe, NM: New Mexico Recycling Coalition (NMRC). July, 2009. 120p. [PDF File]

    "The New Mexico Recycling Coalition has been awarded a grant through the Utilities Program of the United States Department of Agriculture to assist communities with developing a community Recycling Action Plan, help start up or expand recycling programs, develop a state “waste shed” overlay in regard to cooperative processing and / or marketing of recyclables and provide rural recycling training."

  18. "10 Steps To Planning A Rural Regional Recycling." Debra Siniard Stinnett. World Wastes, 39, no. 1 (1996): 64-72.

    Outlines ten specific steps for developing a recycling plan and evaluating it. Discusses issues facing rural communties.

  19. "The Use of Recycled Materials in Highway Construction." Robin L. Schroeder. Public Roads, 58, no. 2 (1994): 32-41.

    Describes how waste materials are being used as components in building and highway materials in innovative programs.

  20. Waste Prevention, Recycling, and Composting Options: Lessons from 30 Communities. EPA530-R-92-015. Washington, DC: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Solid Waste and Emergency Response, 1994, 168 p.

    Case studies analyze the actual operating experience of 30 diverse communities - some with high materials recovery rates, other with model waste reduction initiatives - and draws lessons for communities wanting to strengthen their own programs.

  21. Waste Reduction in Tehama County: A Model for Local Government and Waste Reduction. Sacramento, CA: Integrated Waste Management Board, 2001, 11 p.

    Case study describes how rural Tehama County, California, diverted 43 percent of its waste in 1999 through effective recycling and waste reduction programs and policies.

  22. Waste Reduction Manual for Solid Waste Planning for Local Governments. Publication No. 94-141. Olympia: Washington Department of Ecology, Solid Waste Service Program, 1994, 54 p.

    Outlines six tools that will be helpful for implementing a waste reduction program: education, procurement policies, policy initiatives and actions, financial incentives and disincentives, publicity and public relations, and community and volunteer activities.


Community Matters
Keep America Beautiful
1010 Washington Blvd.
Stamford, CT 06901
(203) 323-8987

Paper Recycling Online
McEntee Media Corporation
9815 Hazelwood Avenue
Strongsville, OH 44149

Reusuable News
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
401 M St., SW (5305W)
Washington, DC 20460

Waste Age
6151 Powers Ferry Rd. Suite 200
Atlanta, GA 30339
(770) 955-2500

WasteWise Update
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
401 M St., SW (5305W)
Washington, DC 20460

Federal Publication Sources

The Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Solid Waste Management, is a resource on topics related to solid waste management for individuals and communities. The Catalogue of Hazardous and Solid Waste Publications ( is a list of publications. Many of these publications are available at no charge. For more information, call EPA at 1-800-490-9198 or email:
  • EPA Composting Publications:
  • EPA Recycling Publications:
  • PA Source Reduction Publications:
  • EPA Regional Office:


Funding Sources

The following federal programs and private funding sources represent a sample of the resources available. For additional sources consult A Guide to Funding Resources: This online guide contains links to numerous funding sources including federal, state, and private funding databases, state foundation guides, and grant writing resources and information.

Federal Funding


Funding Program Information:

Water and Waste Disposal Systems for Rural Communities
Solid Waste Management Grants

Information Contact:

For information conerning grant applications and procedures:
USDA, Rural Development Utilities Programs
1400 Independence Ave, SW
Washington, DC 20250
(202) 690-2670


Grants and Fellowship Information:

Community Action for a Renewed Environment (CARE)
Environmental education
Environmental Information Exchange Network
Environmental Justice
Fellowships and other student programs
National Clean Diesel Campaign
Pollution Prevention
State Innovation Grant Program
Science to Achieve Results (STAR)
Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR)

Information Contact:
Environmental Protection Agency
Office of Grants and Debarment
Mail Code: 3901
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20460
E-Mail Address:
Telephone: (202) 564-5315 (E.S.T. 8:00am - 4:00pm, Monday thru Friday)

Private Funding

AT&T Foundation
32 Avenue of the Americas
6th Floor
New York, NY 10013

The Ben & Jerry's Foundation
30 Community Dr.
South Burlington, VT 05403-6828
(802) 846-1500

CS Fund
469 Bohemian Highway
Freestone, CA 95472
(707) 874-2942

The David and Lucile Packard Foundation
300 Second St., Suite 200
Los Altos, CA 90422
(650) 948-7658

DuPont Corporation Contributions Program
Dupont Corporate Information Center
Chestnut Run Plaza
Wilmington, DE 19880-0705
(800) 441-7515

Surdna Foundation, Inc.
330 Madison Ave., 30th Fl.
New York, NY 10017-5001
(212) 557-0010

Additional Resources

State Environmental Agencies

State Environmental Agencies:


Air and Waste Management Association
1 Gateway Center, 3rd Fl.
420 Gateway Duquesne Blvd.
Pittsburgh, PA 15222
(412) 232-3444

Alliance of Foam Packaging Recyclers (AFPR)
1298 Cronson Boulevard, Suite 201
Crofton, MD 21114
(410) 451-8340

Aluminum Association
1300 Wilson Blvd.
Arlington, VA 22209
(202) 862-5100

American Chemistry Council - Plastics Division
1300 Wilson Blvd.
Arlington, VA 22209
(800) 243-5790

American Public Works Association
2345 Grand Blvd. Suite 500
Kansas City, MO 64108-2461
(800) 848-2792

Asphalt Recycling and Reclaiming Society
3 Church Circle, Ste. 250
Annapolis, MD 21401
(410) 267-0023

Association of State and Territorial Solid Waste Management Officials
444 N. Capitol St., NW, Suite 315
Washington, DC 20001
(202) 624-5828

Automotive Recyclers Association
3975 Fair Ridge Drive, Suite 20-North
Fairfax, VA 22033
(888) 385-1005

Construction Materials Recycling Association
PO Box 122
Eola, IL 60519
(630) 585-7530

Container Recycling Institute
1601 N. Kent Street, Suite 803
Arlington, VA 22209
(703) 276-9800

Environmental Hazards Management Institute (EHMI)
10 Newmarket Road
Durham, NH 03824
(800) 558-3464

Glass Packaging Institute
1627 K St., NW, Ste 800
Washington, DC 20006
(202) 887-4850

Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR)
927 15th St NW, 4th Fl.
Washington, DC 20005
(202) 898-1610

Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries
1325 G St., NW, Suite 1000
Washington, DC 20005-3104
(202) 737-1770

Keep America Beautiful
1010 Washington Blvd.
Stamford, CT 06901
(203) 323-8987

National Association for PET Container Resources (NAPCOR)
10800 Sikes Place, Suite 240
Charlotte, NC 28277
(704) 845-5070

National Recycling Coalition
1325 G Street NW, Suite 1025
Washington, DC 20005
(202) 347-0450

National Solid Wastes Management Association
4301 Connecticut Ave., NW, Suite. 300
Washington, DC 20008-2304
(202) 244-4700

NORA: Association of Responsible Recyclers
5965 Amber Ridge Road
Haymarket, VA 20169
(703) 753-4277

Northeast Recycling Council (NERC)
139 Main Street, Suite 401
Brattleboro, VT 05301
(802) 254-3636

Recycled Materials Resource Center
220 Environmental Technology Building
Durham, NH 03824
(603) 862-4704

Reuse Development Organization, Inc (ReDO)
c/o The Loading Dock
2523 Gwynns Falls Parkway
Baltimore, MD 21216
(410) 669-7245

Secondary Materials and Recycled Textile Association(SMART)
7910 Woodmont Ave. Suite 1130
Bethesda, MD 20814
(301) 656-1077

Steel Recycling Institute
Idersen Drive
Pittsburg, PA 15220-2700
(800) 937-1226

SWANA, The Solid Waste Association of North America
1100 Wayne Ave.
Suite 700
Silver Spring, MD 20910
(800) 467-9262

Tire and Rubber Recycling Advisory Council (TRRAC)
Tire Industry Association
1532 Pointer Ridge Place, Suite G
Bowie, MD 20716
(800) 876-8372

Tire Retread Information Bureau
900 Weldon Grove
Pacific Grove, CA 93950
(888) 473-8732

US Composting Council
4250 Veterans Memorial Highway, Suite 275
Holbrook, NY 11741
(631) 737-4931

The Vinyl Institute
1300 Wilson Boulevard, Suite 800
Arlington, VA 22209
(703) 741-5670

USDA, Rural Information Center
National Agricultural Library
10301 Baltimore Ave., Room 123
Beltsville, MD 20705-2351