Composting – decomposing food waste and other organic materials to recycle it – isn’t a common practice in Central Ohio, but some companies and schools are adopting it as a sustainability initiative to cut refuse. Composting programs launched in Central Ohio this year could present the growing region with an infrastructure challenge, but advocates hope the payoff will be worth it in terms of extending the life of the county landfill.
From the perspective of the Solid Waste Authority of Central Ohio, which is encouraging composting as part of a new initiative, it’s a trend that could help prevent overloading the system as the city’s population grows. “If you get food waste out of landfills, then those landfills will last a lot longer, so it has big ramifications for local services and cascading up for bigger benefits in terms of food security, better resource stewardship,” said Brian Roe, a professor in the Department of Agricultural, Environmental and Development Economics at Ohio State University.
Residents and businesses in Franklin County alone create more than 2 million tons of waste every year. About 1.1 million tons of that material ends up buried at the county landfill off Interstate 71 in Grove City, equivalent to 500 truckloads every day.
A new SWACO initiative looks to improve on that, with a goal of 75 percent of all waste in the county being recycled or composted by 2032, up from 46 percent today. SWACO estimates 70 percent of what ends up in the landfill could be recycled or composted, including the 13 percent of the waste stream that is food waste. About 143,616 tons of food waste are buried every year – 322 pounds for every household in the county. In 2017, the region diverted just 7 percent of its food waste.