SWACO makes inroads with recycling, food waste

SWACO makes inroads with recycling, food waste

The solid waste agency recently released two reports outlining its progress in Central Ohio.

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The Solid Waste Authority of Central Ohio (SWACO) recently released its 2018 Community Impact Report, which revealed the region’s recycling rate reached a record 49.17 percent.

SWACO says this is just one of many interesting pieces of information contained in the Community Impact Report, which the agency publishes annually to illustrate the impact it had on Central Ohio the previous year.

“As a solid waste authority, SWACO has a primary goal of helping communities in Central Ohio increase their recycling and reduce their reliance on the landfill,” says Ty Marsh, executive director of SWACO. “We have several programs, services and initiatives aimed at diverting waste from the landfill, and we’re proud of the difference they are making in our community.”

The report covers SWACO’s activities in 2018, including the launch of “Recycle Right,” a community education campaign that uses paid advertising and direct mail to reach Franklin County residents with information about the right way to recycle.

The report also covers the Central Ohio Food Waste Initiative, SWACO’s efforts to help schools reduce food waste, the construction of a new cell at the landfill and more.

For the first time, SWACO published the report in a digital format rather than a printed piece. The digital version uses fewer resources to produce, allows SWACO to present more information in an easy-to-read format and ensures it won’t end up in the landfill when people are done reading it, the agency says. 

The release of the report comes just days after SWACO released its plan to cut food waste in half by 2030 following nearly a year of community engagement and planning.

The Food Waste Action Plan is the result of contributions made by more than 60 organizations and businesses which participate in the Central Ohio Food Waste Initiative and aims to cut Central Ohio’s food waste in half by 2030 through waste prevention, food rescue and recycling. 

“Throughout Franklin County and Central Ohio, meaningful work is being performed by various groups, organizations and governments to support our local food system, stem hunger and reduce waste,” says Kyle O’Keefe, SWACO’s director of innovation and programs. “We applaud those efforts and appreciate all of the collaboration those partners have provided in regard to preventing food waste and the development of the Food Waste Action Plan.”

O’Keefe continues, “As Central Ohio’s population continues to grow, SWACO sought to bring these partners together to create a plan which identifies opportunities and solutions for the community to coalesce around and pursue and which will help SWACO fulfill its mission to improve the solid waste stream and increase diversion.”

As a result, the Food Waste Action Plan is not a comprehensive document but rather seeks to complement the existing work of others, including the Columbus-Franklin County Local Food Action Plan.

By wasting food locally, SWACO estimates that 41 billion gallons of water is lost each year as is the energy equivalent of 22 million gallons of gasoline, and 160,000 acres of land is used to grow food that would not be eaten, which is roughly half the size of Franklin County.

The economic loss is great too. Landfilling food cost Franklin County just over $6 million dollars each year.

In order to cut food waste in half over the next 11 years and leverage it to benefit our region, the plan outlines three areas of focus: waste prevention, rescue and recycling. In each of these categories, the plan proposes a series of solutions and recommends the following action items as the best places to start: promote existing services and programs, support school curriculum and in school diversion programs and create a consumer in-home awareness education campaign. SWACO says activities for each of these items are already underway.