Last year, our community diverted more than half (51%) of the waste stream materials we created. Yet, we still landfilled over a million tons of material, the majority of which (76%) had the potential to be reused, recycled or composted providing exciting opportunities to reach Central Ohio’s goal of 75% diversion by 2032. Reaching this goal will require support and action from nearly every person, organization and business in our community. We’re happy to report that in 2021, SWACO collaborated with dozens of partners committed to helping Central Ohio reach our goal. Here’s a little bit about what those collaborations achieved.
Every day, Central Ohio households send nearly a million pounds of food to the landfill, wasting key natural resources used to produce food while also contributing significantly to greenhouse gas production. Food waste is not only the single largest source of landfill material (by weight), it also presents one of the best opportunities to increase diversion.
The Central Ohio Food Waste Initiative, a collaborative group focused on food waste prevention and led by SWACO, has a goal to cut Central Ohio’s food waste in half by 2030. The Initiative created the Food Waste Action Plan which outlined 20 strategies to help reduce waste, one of which was the development of Save More Than Food (SMTF), a public education campaign geared toward changing the way people think about the food on their dinner plates. SMTF was launched in the third quarter of 2020 and is anchored by an immersive consumer focused website which has provided information and resources to thousands of residents. The initiative is supported by a robust marketing campaign featuring messages about how to reduce waste and its many benefits. These messages have been seen millions of times in Central Ohio.
In addition to the advertising campaign and website, more than 30 partners – including organizations like Franklin Park Conservatory, Food Rescue US and Columbus Public Health – are currently using SMTF resources to reach their stakeholders with food prevention, rescue and recycling information.
Central Ohio’s food waste diversion efforts are receiving national support. In 2020, SWACO received a $60,000 federal grant from the US Environmental Protection Agency to study food waste behaviors and the positive benefits that education programs like SMTF can have. Under the grant, SWACO partnered with the City of Upper Arlington and The Ohio State University in 2021 to study the behaviors of hundreds of households before and after receiving SMTF educational materials. Not only did the city capture and divert 138,000 pounds of food waste from the landfill, the study also documented:
Today, 29% of residents report composting food or yard waste either at home or at one of our community’s 10 drop off programs.
For residents without access to a convenient drop off program, SWACO partners with the Franklin County Soil and Water Conservation District to provide home composting systems at a reduced cost to residents who also participate in composting training. Last year, 120 households received a compost bin through this program.
“The Central Ohio Food Waste Initiative is a truly unprecedented example of a collective impact model that’s working together toward a significant reduction in food waste in our region,” said Kyle O’Keefe, Director of Innovations and Programs at SWACO. “More importantly, recognition of our food waste diversion work at the national level is evidence of a best-in-class model for communities across the country with similar issues. It’s thrilling to see leaders across Central Ohio have a leading voice in an issue that impacts every person on this planet. The possibilities are limitless, and we look forward to reporting out on future progress.”
Today, every city in Franklin County now offers a curbside recycling program and an estimated 60,000 tons of recyclables are captured and diverted from the landfill every year as a result. Recycling is a point of pride in our region with the majority of Central Ohioans agreeing that recycling reflects well on our community, is easy to do, and helps address climate change.
Recycling participation among households and the quality of what’s recycled can vary greatly from community to community. From our recycling cart grant and tagging programs to Recycle Right and our consortium programs, SWACO has a variety of available resources to help meet a community’s diversion needs no matter how far along they are in their recycling and composting journey.
Congratulations to the city of Whitehall. Other communities interested in learning more about a volume-based collection program, can email email@example.com.
The city of Whitehall’s recycling success is a wonderful example of how collaboration can lead to reduced costs and increased recycling for families and residents. In 2021, SWACO worked with the city to transition homeowners to a volume-based trash and recycling collection program that provides an incentive to reduce a household’s trash bill by recycling more. The results are in and are impressive when compared with 2020 data:
The city of Gahanna also found success with their recycling program. While residents continue to embrace recycling, one of the biggest challenges is unintended contamination. Placing items in the recycling cart that are not accepted for recycling can cause delays at the Material Recovery Facility and lead to higher recycling costs. Last year, SWACO partnered with the City of Gahanna to implement Feet on the Street, a national program from The Recycling Partnership which uses a team of community-based observers to visit each resident’s recycling cart to provide tailored feedback on how to ensure only the accepted recyclables are placed into the cart. This intervention is just one activity in a long-standing partnership between the city, SWACO and The Recycling Partnership to improve recycling through enhanced infrastructure and education. These strategic decisions and activities have led to an impressive decrease (45%) in contamination in Gahanna’s curbside residential recycling program.
“Our residents have consistently embraced sustainability initiatives, as evidenced by our achievement in reaching ‘Silver’ status as part of MORPC’s Sustainable2050 program and our designation as a ‘Tree City USA’. We are excited to partner with SWACO as we strive to raise recycling awareness and generate an overall positive impact on our community’s sustainability practices.”
– Gahanna Mayor Laurie Jadwin –
SWACO applauds the cities of Whitehall and Gahanna on their community-wide efforts to reduce waste.
While the vast majority of Central Ohio homeowners have access to a curbside recycling program, many times those households require additional recycling capacity, primarily for items like large carboard boxes which don’t break down and fit easily into the curbside recycling cart. Many individuals and families living in apartments and condos and some Central Ohio businesses still lack access to recycling where they live and work. To help bridge the gap and provide greater access to recycling, SWACO operates a recycling drop-off program available at 53 locations across Franklin County. Roughly half of Franklin County’s population uses this program which receives more than 600 tons of material every year.
In 2021, we added new drop-off locations at the Whitehall Community Park YMCA, Jerry L. Garver YMCA and Eldon & Elsie Ward YMCA. These new locations have the potential to divert an additional 400,000 pounds of material from the landfill every year.
SWACO’s drop-off recycling locations accept the same items as the curbside recycling programs. Those items include paper & cardboard, metal cups & cans, carton containers, glass bottles and jars, plastic bottles, tubs, cups & jugs. The program is free to use. Find a location near you.
Receive free recycling when you become part of this long-standing community recycling program by hosting a drop-off location at your place of business. SWACO anticipates adding an additional 5-10 drop-off recycling locations in the coming year and there is no expense to your business to become a host location. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to connect with our program administrators who can start you on your way to recycling.
Franklin County’s rate of recycling exceeds the national average (34%) and stands at an all-time high of 51%. In 2021, eight new communities rolled out the Recycle Right campaign, delivering information on how to recycle correctly – and the many benefits associated with doing so – to more than 40,000 Central Ohio households.
Since we created Recycle Right in 2018, more than half of Central Ohio’s 41 communities, representing 130,000 households, have participated in this recycling education program. The campaign website, RecycleRight.org, is visited 9,200 times a month and important recycling advertisements have been seen 175 million times thanks to strategic collaborations with 10TV, the Dispatch Media Group, Columbus Underground, Urban One radio and many other local media partners.
While virtually all homeowners in Franklin County have access to convenient recycling programs, many families and residents living in apartments, condos and other multifamily housing complexes still do not have onsite recycling access. When asked about the barriers to reducing waste, most of these individuals cited lack of convenient recycling. SWACO is working hard to change that. In Franklin County, these dwellings, along with other commercial properties including schools and businesses, are the largest generators of landfill materials.
To support the goal of increasing landfill diversion by an additional 25%, SWACO and the City of Columbus worked with The Recycling Partnership last year to pilot a multifamily recycling program at nearly 10,000 housing units in Columbus and across Franklin County. The learnings from this pilot, along with similar practices already tested in communities such as Orlando, FL and Tacoma, WV, SWACO is aiming to create an industry-leading sustainable multifamily recycling program to provide greater access to easy and convenient recycling opportunities for more Central Ohioans. Learnings from the pilot and a new Franklin County Multifamily Housing Recycling Program will be available in late 2022.
SWACO is always interested in connecting with property managers of complexes that wish to offer recycling. Please email ApartmentRecycling@swaco.org to learn more.
Central Ohio’s recycling economy is strong and includes nearly 400 businesses located in the region. Together, these businesses support thousands of jobs and help keep our household recyclables flowing through a circular economy in which they become new products and avoid the landfill.
Area businesses are also one of the largest generators of landfill materials and have a responsibility to help Central Ohio become a more sustainable community and achieve its stated diversion goals. In recent years, many businesses have adopted zero waste plans or other sustainability goals and SWACO is pleased to support these important partners find success in their waste reduction and recycling initiatives.
Last year, SWACO hired staff dedicated to helping Central Ohio businesses start, improve and expand recycling programs. During that time, staff responded to more than 50 inquiries from businesses to share existing resources, such as a Waste Audit Tool that helps businesses understand their individual waste stream and respond to any opportunities to capture and divert more materials from the landfill.
SWACO also began piloting new program resources with King Arts Complex and Zipline Logistics, aimed at making it even more appealing for a business to offer recycling.
The King Arts Complex is located on the near Eastside of Columbus in one of the oldest areas of African American life and culture in the city. Serving as a major anchor for development in the King-Lincoln District, the King Arts Complex is an oasis for cultural and educational activities for local residents and families.
Last year, SWACO worked with the King Arts Complex to set up a simple and sustainable recycling program. Utilizing SWACO’s Business Tool Kit, the organization audited its waste stream to better understand the type of waste being generated, then implemented a recycling program to capture more of those materials. They now recycle two cubic yards of material a week – the equivalent to 400 gallons of milk each week.
Zipline, a logistics company located in Northwest Columbus, is the only third-party logistics solutions provider in North America and has been recognized by Business First, Food Logistics Magazine and Transport Topics for their rapid growth and reliability.
SWACO and Zipline are working together to make their workplace more sustainable, first by switching from plastic and other nonrecyclable breakroom items to reusable glassware and mugs. The partners are also working together to implement a recycling program to capture plastic bottles and metal cans. In the first month of the pilot, Zipline collected one cubic yard of materials, diverting the equivalent of 200 gallons of milk from the landfill.
SWACO celebrates this success our commercial sector partners are experiencing and wants to help other businesses bring recycling programs online. Later in 2022, SWACO will begin making incentives available to local businesses to start a recycling program. Once launched, financial support will be available to help businesses purchase indoor recycling containers, create indoor and outdoor signage, and initiate a recycling service.
Email us to learn more about our business recycling incentive program at email@example.com.
SWACO offers a variety of grants, including the Community Waste Reduction Grant program, a competitive application process for area schools, universities, local governments and non-profit organizations that would like to receive funding to help them reach their sustainability goals. These grants help local organizations support SWACO’s broader strategy to increase the diversion of materials from the landfill by an additional 25% by 2032.
Last year, through the Community Waste Reduction Grant program, SWACO awarded more than $215,000 to 13 partners to help them reach their waste diversion goals.
Since 2016, an impressive $770,000.00 has been awarded in Community Waste Reduction grant funding and Franklin County’s diversion rate has grown from 45% to today’s record high rate of 51%.
Dating back to 2019, the Community Waste Reduction Grant program has supported more than recycling initiatives. SWACO has awarded funding to nine Central Ohio communities to assist with the creation and implementation of food waste drop off programs. In 2021, grant-funded activities put drop-off programs in place in the cities of Grandview Heights and Grove City which captured and diverted 47,000 pounds and 28,000 pounds of food waste respectively.
Learn more about the Community Waste Reduction Grant program at swaco.org/CommunityGrants.
Last year, OhioHealth received more than $28,000 to install public facing recycling containers at Dublin Methodist Hospital, Grant Medical Center and Doctors Hospital after first piloting the program at Riverside Methodist Hospital. The recycling program is available to patients and their families in public spaces, and accepts all materials currently accepted by Rumpke throughout the region.
In 2021, thanks to the infrastructure put in place, Dublin Methodist Hospital, Grant Medical Center and Doctors Hospital alone diverted a significant amount of recyclables from the landfill. This includes 106 tons of single-stream recyclables, 80 tons of cardboard, and 373 tons of paper (confidential/HIPAA paper via ShredIt). Across the OhioHealth hospitals in 2021, total recycling (single stream, cardboard, and paper) was over 2,372 tons.
– Allegra Wiesler, Sustainability Advisor –
In 2021, many Central Ohio events began to return safely after going virtual for several years in response to the pandemic. SWACO’s Event Waste Reduction Grant program provides reimbursement funding for activities at these events that increase waste reduction, reuse, recycling, and composting, as well as diversion related outreach and education activities to increase public awareness of the importance of these activities. Last year, SWACO awarded to three public events totaling $7,000. Awarded events included:
SWACO will be accepting applications for Event Waste Reduction Grants through August 5, 2022. Apply at swaco.org/EventGrants.
Events that do not apply for grant funding are able to borrow waste containers through the Container Loan Program. Last year, this program made trash, recycling and composting containers available to 12 local events, diverting an additional 12,798 of event-generated recyclables and compostable material from the landfill.
Central Ohio is home to hundreds of schools, including the largest school district in the state – Columbus City Schools, which serves the needs of 47,000 students in 112 schools alone. In addition to the Community Waste Reduction Grant program, SWACO offers several other programs for schools to help meet their sustainability goals.
In 2021, SWACO partnered with five local schools to provide technical guidance on setting up new or improving existing recycling programs. SWACO provided participating schools with new recycling containers and proper recycling signage to ensure the program’s success and engage students in the recycling activities as part of a school’s Green Team. Congratulations to SWACO’s 2021 School Recycling Champions: Hayes Intermediate, Herbert Mills STEAM Elementary School, Immaculate Conception School, Northtowne Elementary School, and Waggoner Road Middle School. If your school is interested in becoming a 2022-2023 School Recycling Champion, apply here.
SWACO assisted nine school districts (Bexley City Schools, Hilliard City Schools, New Albany-Plain Local School District, Reynoldsburg City Schools, South-Western City School District, Upper Arlington City Schools, Westerville City Schools, Whitehall City Schools, Worthington City Schools and the Educational Service Center of Central Ohio (ESCCO) with a joint bid process for the collection, transportation, and delivery of disposal or processing of solid waste and recyclable materials generated in and collected from the participant’s buildings/facilities and during special events. By working together to bid out these services, eight of these school districts and the ESCCO were able to improve services and expand the amount of recyclables diverted from the schools. To learn more about SWACO’s School Consortium program, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.