Future Generations Graduate Student Works to Expand Recycling Opportunities and Education in West Virginia

West Virginia is one of the most scenic states in the Eastern U.S., if not the entire country. It’s rivers and forests, many on public lands, draw tourists from around the globe. Unfortunately, many of these beautiful landscapes are littered with trash. 

“I noticed all of the litter in these pretty natural areas and I thought that something could be done,” said Ashley Akers, a Future Generations masters candidate (Class of 2017). Originally from Charleston, Ashley moved to Elkins for an Americorps position with The Nature Conservancy. When her Americorps year ended, she accepted a job with the Randolph County Recycling Center (RCRC) and began attending meetings of the Randolph County Solid Waste Authority.
The work that Akers is doing for her degree in Applied Community Change from Future Generations overlaps heavily with her position at the RCRC. Her capstone project is to assess the possibilities for expanded recycling opportunities in Randolph County and ultimately to reduce the amount of trash that ends up in landfills or worse yet, in rivers and streams. She is looking at a number of options, including curbside pick-up, single stream recycling, and even composting.
Akers is also working to get recycling bins into school classrooms and to develop lesson plans that tie recycling to math. Students could measure, for example, how much food waste is produced in the cafeteria during a typical day. Right now, she is focusing all of her effort on Randolph County, but she is hopeful that “if we get things in place, this could be a model for other counties, other cities in the state.”