“In November, SWACO released new data that shows central Ohio has now surpassed a 50% diversion rate. This means that residents and businesses are keeping over half of the waste they create out of the landfill by recycling, composting and re-using materials. This new rate, up from 45% just a few short years ago, is the highest rate of recycling on record for our communities and is considered to be one of the highest rates in the Midwest. Achieving this new record high rate was accomplished in no small part because of efforts by businesses, schools and governments across Franklin County who are taking waste reduction, reuse, recycling and composting seriously. In particular, we applaud the work Otterbein University has done to tackle plastic waste by reducing the number of single-use water bottles sold on campus. Our local school districts including Columbus City Schools and Hilliard along with the cities of Upper Arlington, Westerville and Bexley are accomplishing their goals to divert cafeteria and residential food waste from the landfill and events like the Dublin Irish Festival are doubling their recycling rates.

However, as great as our diversion rate is, the Franklin County Sanitary Landfill still receives over a million tons of material every year, which means that each of us is throwing 4-to-5 pounds of material away every day, so, I know we can do even better. To help with that, SWACO has set a goal to help Franklin County reach 75% diversion by 2032. To help get us there, we need to know what’s in our waste stream that could be recycled, composted or reused or simply has no better use than being safely disposed at the landfill. So, we’ve been involved with a few studies to help us gain that insight.

Insights into Franklin County’s Waste Stream

SWACO’s dual responsibilities of owning the Franklin County Sanitary Landfill and working to reduce the community’s reliance on landfilling, provides us with a unique and holistic look at the entire waste stream in Franklin County. 

Because waste streams change over time, as new products and materials are introduced into the marketplace, SWACO periodically studies the materials that are coming to the landfill to gain insights into what residents and businesses throw away. To that end, over the last year, SWACO has been conducting that review, called a Waste Characterization Study. Once during each of the past four seasons, we rerouted a random sample of waste-hauling trucks from the landfill to a designated waste sorting area. Once the trucks emptied their loads, workers manually sorted and weighed the materials by category, such as plastics, yard waste, food waste and cardboard.

We’re still analyzing the data, but initial results show that we’re throwing away a lot of food and cardboard that could have been recycled or composted. In fact, 14.7% of the material was food waste. Put differently, over a million pounds of food waste is entering the Franklin County Sanitary Landfill every single day. That’s a significant amount and it affirms that the Central Ohio Food Waste Initiative we launched last fall is really important. The results also show that 76% of all the material already in the landfill had the potential to be recycled or composted, and 41% of the material being put in the landfill could easily be recycled today. The results support SWACO’s conclusion and efforts to divert even greater materials away from the landfill to reach 75% diversion.”

To read the full story, visit https://www.swaco.org/CivicAlerts.aspx?AID=131.
Photo courtesy of SWACO.