The Solid Waste Authority of Southern Ohio (SWACO), Grove City, Ohio, has released a waste characterization study documenting that up to 76 percent of the material currently disposed of at the Franklin County Sanitary Landfill could be recycled or composted. The items offering the greatest opportunities for increased diversion are food scraps and old corrugated cardboard (OCC), the study notes.
During the study period, 180 commercial and residential trash samples, weighing 39,000 pounds in total, were collected and analyzed, SWACO says. The materials were sorted into 64 categories and evaluated based on their weight, material type and recyclability to determine what’s being thrown away and how much of it has the potential to be diverted from the landfill.
The 10 items most commonly found in Franklin County’s waste stream are:
- food scraps at 15 percent;
- corrugated cardboard at 10 percent;
- other compostable items and fiber at 9 percent;
- magazines, newspaper, office and other paper at 8 percent;
- bulky and durable goods at 7 percent;
- construction and demolition debris at 4 percent;
- plastic containers at 4 percent;
- wood pallets at 4 percent;
- textiles at 4 percent; and
- yard waste at 3 percent.
Combined, these items make up 68 percent, or 772,234 tons, of the material landfilled.
SWACO says the three most prevalent items in Franklin County’s waste stream are food scraps, corrugated cardboard and compostable items and fiber, which can be recovered through currently offered programs or have the potential to be captured and diverted if new programs and services were established.
“While we weren’t surprised to learn that so much food was coming to the landfill, we remain committed to decreasing landfill disposal of all types of materials, and we’re already at work helping to support rescuing edible food and redirecting it to families and individuals in need,” says Kyle O’Keefe, SWACO director of innovation and programs. “We’re also working to increase opportunities for composting of inedible food and encouraging waste reduction practices to avoid the creation of waste in the first place.”
When evaluating Franklin County’s potential to increase diversion based on the waste stream, the study found that of the 76 percent of the material currently being sent to the landfill that could be recycled or composted, 41 percent could be diverted through existing programs and an additional 35 percent has the potential to be diverted with new programs and infrastructure.
In November 2019, SWACO reported that Franklin County had reached a 50 percent diversion rate, which is one of the highest rates in the Midwest and exceeds the national average. Yet, the county still landfills more than 1 million tons every year. SWACO says it has set a goal to help residents and businesses in Franklin County divert 75 percent of their waste from the landfill.
SWACO says it is using the data from the waste characterization study to make informed decisions regarding the creation of new programs aimed at increasing the diversion of a wide range of materials. In the last year, SWACO introduced Recycle Right, the Make a Difference campaign, the Residential Recycling Cart Initiative, SWACO’s Community Consortium Program and the Central Ohio Food Waste Initiative. These programs are designed to help residents recycle more of the materials generated at home, facilitate reducing food waste occurring in school cafeterias and promote the composting of food scraps at home and at area businesses.
The study also assessed the value of the materials being landfilled and which are currently accepted for recycling through Franklin County’s curbside, drop-off and other recycling programs (which include paper, cardboard, plastic bottles and jugs, glass bottles and metal cans). Those materials are estimated to have a market value of $23 million.
“It’s easy to connect how reducing our waste and increasing our recycling is good for the environment, but what isn’t always immediately obvious is the economic benefit of recycling too,” says O’Keefe. “When we throw away items that have the potential to be recycled, we miss the opportunity to create the jobs needed to turn those materials into new products as well as the millions of dollars that could be reinvested right here in the central Ohio region.”
Later this year, SWACO says it will launch new educational programs for capturing and recovering food waste, including funding drop-off composting sites in a number of Franklin County cities, and will unveil new resources to assist area businesses in starting and expanding recycling programs.