A Letter From SWACO’s Board Chair and Executive Director
Manage the waste stream to enable community growth, prosperity and environmental stewardship.
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has changed so much of our daily lives, including how we reduce waste and recycle right. However, despite these new challenges, Central Ohioans continue to make a difference for our environment, economy and community. We’re excited to share last year’s accomplishments with you in our 2020 Community Impact Report.
At the start of the pandemic, SWACO’s waste hauling partners reported a 30% increase in material set out by residents each week for pick-up. This increase was driven by a few key factors including that as many of us began to spend more time at home, we got busy cleaning out our garages, closets and basements.
Throughout the last year, SWACO’s team remained hard at work, with the majority of staff reporting in person to ensure the landfill remained open to accept the community’s waste. We want to extend a personal thank you to our team and all of Franklin County’s front-line workers who kept both the public and our environment healthy and safe.
At SWACO, our mission statement guided us through these difficult times. Not only did the landfill remain open and fully operational, but we also kept the cost to dispose of waste low for our customers, improved service and launched new diversion programs. We also sought opportunities to respond to our community’s unique waste needs, such as partnering with area hospitals to divert vaccine packaging and turning plywood used by downtown businesses during the Black Lives Matter protests into building materials for homes for families in our community.
And, while we saw an increase in the amount of waste being created, we, unfortunately, did not see an increase in the amount of recycling taking place last year. Our rate of recycling continues to exceed the national average. However, Central Ohio households still only recycle less than half of the material that they could. This means that the vast majority of the items that arrive at the landfill each year could have been reused, recycled or composted.
To help residents and businesses reduce their reliance on the landfill, SWACO launched new programs like Save More Than Food and hosted contact-free mobile collection events last year.
We also invested nearly $200,000 into programs run by community partners to help reduce waste and increase recycling and composting at their facilities.
Under our economic development strategy, we formed new partnerships with Rev1 Ventures to spur innovation in the waste stream, created the Columbus Solar Park project, and are advancing plans for a Green Economy Business Park in Grove City, which will attract new industry and help existing businesses expand and grow their operations in alignment with our mission to leverage the waste stream for greater benefit.
Coupled together, these activities will continue to move us closer to our community goal of diverting an additional 25% of materials from the waste stream by 2032.
While we did a lot of work in the community, we also looked internally and re-committed ourselves to ensuring our operations met all of Franklin County’s needs. In the last year, we have implemented stronger diversity and inclusion efforts in our Human Resources and Procurement departments to improve our recruitment and training programs and create even more opportunities for businesses to work with us. We’re also expanding our educational programs to reach non-native English speakers and more minority populations in Franklin County.
If we’re going to reach a higher level of sustainability as a community, it’s going to take all of us working together.
As we look ahead to the future, we are excited for the things to come in 2021. There’s always more work to be done, but we’re starting the year off with a new strategic plan, an expanded residential recycling program that now accepts plastic tubs and yogurt cups in addition to bottles and jugs, a goal to reduce our emissions and create even more green energy and attract and grow businesses and jobs in our Region.
So, with all of this said, we’re excited to introduce SWACO’s 2020 Community Impact Report.
Throughout the process of putting this report together, one thing is clear: We couldn’t have done any of this without you. We look forward to many more accomplishments together in 2021.