Inside Central Ohio's recycling and composting success
Each time you toss a can or cardboard box into the recycling bin, you're contributing to a powerful local effort that's in the national spotlight.
What's happening: The New York Times recently featured Central Ohio for our successful recycling and composting programs, which are diverting a record amount of waste away from the landfill in southwestern Franklin County.
- In 2021, 51% of waste — over 2 billion pounds — was diverted. That's a 12% increase since 2014 and well above the national average of 32%.
Why it matters: Every pound that is reused instead of being landfilled eliminates potential planet-warming greenhouse gasses that the piled up waste would have emitted.
What they did: The Solid Waste Authority of Central Ohio (SWACO) started stepping up its public education efforts about food waste around 2015 to prevent excess in the first place.
- It is also partnering with schools, businesses and local governments to expand composting and recycling opportunities, per a 2021 impact report.
Yes, but: The Franklin County Sanitary Landfill is still one of the largest in the country — and our expanding population means an expanding amount of waste.
- Each year, we're landfilling over 2 billion pounds, per data SWACO provided to Axios.
Threat level: Much of that is food waste. In Franklin County, nearly 1 million pounds of food waste is landfilled daily.
- Across the U.S., an estimated 30-40% of food goes unsold or eaten, per the USDA.
What they're saying: "Nobody wakes up wanting to waste food … It's just that we’re not thinking about it," Dana Gunders, executive director of nonprofit ReFED, told the Times. "We've become really accustomed to it in our culture, and quite numb."
What's next: Curbside recycling pickup in Columbus increases from biweekly to weekly later this year, which should help increase participation.
- SWACO's goal is to divert 75% of waste by the end of 2032.
🍽️ Go deeper: "How Central Ohio got people to eat their leftovers"
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