The Solid Waste Authority of Central Ohio (SWACO) recently announced the launch of a new, collaborative initiative aimed at solving one of central Ohio’s biggest waste challenges: the growing amount of food waste going into the Franklin County Sanitary Landfill. The Central Ohio Food Waste Initiative, a collective impact approach to solving local food waste challenges, brings together business leaders and key stakeholders, building collaboration towards developing an action plan to reduce and divert food waste created in central Ohio.

Each year, millions of tons of food are wasted across the United States. In central Ohio alone, it’s estimated that nearly 13 percent, or over 140,000 tons, of all waste that goes to the landfill is food waste, including items from residents and business.

“The goal of the Initiative is to reduce food waste and leverage it as a resource to benefit the region,” said Kyle O’Keefe, director of innovation and programs at SWACO. “Food waste is a complex issue. Effective solutions require collaborative community-based approaches that align and leverage the efforts of many organizations, including the residents we serve.”

In partnership with Resource Recycling Systems and Biehl Consultancy, SWACO launched the initiative with a kick-off meeting on Sept. 20. The initiative will include participation from over 40 central Ohio-based organizations representing all facets of the food chain, including farmers, food producers, retailers, consumers, nonprofits, government agencies and private sector companies.

The group will take a holistic approach to the issue by focusing on preventing food waste, recovering edible food waste for redistribution and recycling food waste through agriculture uses such as composting. SWACO expects to introduce an action plan by the end of the first quarter in 2019. The action plan will act as a road map for implementing food waste solutions throughout the region.

“The central Ohio community recently achieved a record for recycling by diverting more than 46 percent of central Ohio’s waste from the landfill through recycling and reuse,” said O’Keefe. “Now, we’re focused on reaching a new goal of 75 percent diversion by 2032, and to do that, we’ll need to build community support to reduce the amount of food being wasted in the region.”

In recent years, food waste has been brought to the forefront of national solid waste issues through commitments from the U.N. and U.S. EPA to reduce food waste, both national and globally, 50% by 2030.

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