Why evaluate Franklin County’s waste stream and SWACO’s recycling programs?
Over the past two years, the Solid Waste Authority of Central Ohio (SWACO) has undergone significant change to improve operations and efficiencies, deliver high-quality safe disposal of solid municipal waste (MSW) and to refocus the agency on a mission of enhancing recycling, and waste diversion and reduction efforts to create a community that is environmentally safe and resourceful.
Reducing waste and recycling also save money and are cheaper alternatives to landfilling. Additionally, recycling materials conserves natural resources, contributes to a healthier environment, and the processing of materials supports job creation in an emerging industry which benefits area residents.
At the end of 2015, SWACO established four strategic goals, one-of-which includes increasing diversion by five-percent before the end of 2018. To help the organization reach this goal, late last year, SWACO engaged Resource Recycling Systems (RRS), a Michigan-based recycling firm founded in 1986 and specializing in corporate sustainability, waste recovery solutions and organics management to perform a preliminary assessment of Franklin County’s waste stream and analyze how SWACO’s community recycling programs are performing. The report includes key findings and conclusions, and makes recommendations regarding the potential for new opportunities to enhance waste reduction and recycling efforts in Franklin County’s Solid Waste District.
First we needed to know, what is Franklin County throwing away?
In 2014 Franklin County generated a total of 1.5 million tons of municipal solid waste (MSW). Franklin County managed this waste by landfilling 67-percent, recycling 16-percent and composting 17-percent. The District is recycling, composting or diverting approximately 33-percent or a total of nearly 474,600 tons.
The RRS report found that the District’s waste generation is similar to national averages, lags or differs in diversion areas, and that there is room to grow and improve current and prospective diversion programs.
A composition analysis of the MSW at the Franklin County Sanitary Landfill (FCSL) found that over 50-percent of the waste that comes to FCSL each year is made up of easily recyclable material such as cardboard, paper, plastic, and metals. The report found that this potentially recyclable waste has a value of $41 million on the recycling market. An additional 30-percent of the waste could potentially be recovered but currently the District lacks the infrastructure and markets to support recovering food waste, textiles, and less desirable plastics.
So, where should SWACO seek to improve and innovate?
SWACO funds and operates waste reduction, reuse, recycling, and composting programs that support central Ohio communities. A few of SWACO’s long standing programs include providing over a million dollars annually for curbside yard waste collection for Franklin County homeowners which turns yard waste into composting at local facilities, the collection of Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) at a centrally-located, permanent collection site and multiple mobile collection events, and a Recycling Drop-off Program with approximately 200 recycling containers located in neighborhoods throughout Franklin County. Preliminary evaluation shows that each of these programs have opportunities for improving their impacts and efficiencies, and that further analysis will help to identify best practices for enhancing or modifying the programs.
The Report also identified opportunities for central Ohio and SWACO to innovate and address unmet needs for reducing and recycling waste. These areas of opportunity include: improving commercial, institutional and multi-family housing recycling efforts, addressing hard-to-recycle items such as food waste and textiles, and enhancing residential curbside programs. Continuing to build robust and creative education and outreach efforts must also be a priority to ensure the success of any recycling or waste reduction program.
How will SWACO use this information?
As SWACO continues to evaluate programs and community recycling, diversion and waste reduction needs, the RRS report will be used to inform policy decisions about changes to existing programs and the creation of new initiatives. Key findings from the RRS report will also be used as SWACO re-writes the Solid Waste Management Plan which is currently underway and will be ratified through a public process by every village, township and city in Franklin County in 2017.
As SWACO continues to build public and private partnerships to catalyze change, the Report will help to inform decisions around collaboratives to better leverage opportunities and maximize the beneficial impacts of job creation and creating resources which benefit central Ohio residents, families and businesses.
Download the Executive Summary
and the RRS Report