Leveraging the Waste Stream

Central Ohio is home to hundreds of businesses who rely on recyclables for their operations. This is a growing sector of the economy that must be nurtured and SWACO has a responsibility to attract and support more businesses, jobs and investment around recycling and sustainability. 

To fully achieve the economic potential of Franklin County’s waste stream, SWACO will lead the way by creating partnerships and convening businesses that are creating value from materials and energy diverted from the landfill. More and more businesses are convinced there is a connection between jobs and sustainability, and SWACO is here to support them.

Realizing Our Potential

Every year, Central Ohio residents and businesses discard over a million tons of material which ends up in the Franklin County Sanitary Landfill. These materials have an estimated value of $23 million on the market today (2020-2021).

SWACO is working with many partners to tap into this potential by innovating the waste stream and capturing more of these materials, putting them to work in our regional economy.

Supporting a Circular Economy

A circular economy or 'circularity' is an economic system of eliminating waste and the continual use of resources. According to an economic impact study conducted by SWACO in 2018, Central Ohio is: 

  • How to nearly 400 Central Ohio businesses which are recycling-reliant;
  • 5,000 people are employed by recycling-reliant businesses in Central Ohio;
  • Recycling-reliant businesses in Central Ohio generate $1 billion in annual revenues.

These Ohio businesses not only collect and haul away our recyclables, but they also sort, process and turn them into new products right here in the heart of it all. 

Get to Know Some of Ohio's Recycling-Reliant Businesses

Read about more of these businesses here.

To fully achieve the economic potential of Franklin County’s waste stream, SWACO will lead the way by creating partnerships and convening businesses that are creating value from materials and energy diverted from the landfill.

Current Partnerships & Projects Underway

Columbus Solar Park - Former Landfill Turned Solar Facility

Thanks to a public-private partnership between SWACO and BQ Energy Development, LLC, a former closed landfill site will be re-envisioned into a renewable solar facility, generating enough green energy to power more than 5,000 homes a year.Initial Aerial Rendering

The approximately 173-acre property located between Jackson Pike and I-71 in Grove City, Ohio will be leased to BQ Energy with the intent to develop, build and operate a solar energy facility.

This project is not only beneficial to the environment and community, but will also diversify SWACO’s revenue stream, which has been predominantly made up of landfill tipping fees. This project also supports and is in line with SWACO’s goal to reduce carbon emissions by 64%.

This project also enables SWACO to keep disposal costs low at the landfill and to encourage even more diversion of materials from the landfill. 

We are excited about this new solar field because it will not only generate revenue and make the site self-sustaining, it will also reflect Central Ohio’s innovative culture, commitment to environmental sustainability and serve as an educational tool on the benefits of renewable energy. 

Learn more about this exciting new project.

Rev1 Ventures Partnership

Last fall, SWACO and Rev1 Ventures announced a partnership focused on advancing new technologies in food waste and waste management while connecting entrepreneurs with financial and strategic resources to promote new approaches that propel innovative waste stream startups in Central Ohio.

As a result, last year, SWACO and Rev1 worked to connect municipalities, food manufacturers, commercial retailers and kitchens in the Central Ohio region with entrepreneurs focused on food waste prevention, rescue, and recycling. Together, these partners are working on testing technologies and sharing advice and learnings with SWACO and Rev1, which could be applied to food businesses across the Region and could cut food waste in half over the next 9 to 10 years. 

Efforts this year will also focus on supporting local entrepreneurs working in the food waste diversion space that will be invited to participate in a late spring/early summer Learning Lab which may result in the award of financial support for food waste and other waste stream diversion start-ups.

While the food waste initiative focuses on the first phase of the partnership, SWACO and Rev1 are already collaborating on opportunities to evolve the partnership into a broader approach that supports startups innovating in the entire waste and recycling industry. Together, these efforts will advance SWACO’s goal to cut food waste, strengthen our regional circular economy and increase the diversion of all materials away from the landfill by an additional 25% by 2032.

“SWACO is at the forefront of sustainability, and food waste is a critical sector to tackle. We understand the value entrepreneurs will bring to their mission,” said Tom Walker, CEO of Rev1 Ventures. “As with all of our innovation partners, SWACO shares our commitment to supporting innovation by helping startups through access to expert advisors, insights into market needs and the ability to pilot technologies within real-world environments.”

Read more about this collaboration.

Waste-to-Energy Facility

This innovative public-private partnership turns landfill gas into renewable energy for homes. As the bacteria within a landfill consume organic materials like food, paper and wood, gases are produced. Aria2

To ensure this gas doesn’t escape into the atmosphere, SWACO’s Gas Collection and Control System (GCCS) has more than 200 gas extraction wells and miles of underground piping, which converts the gas under vacuum to either SWACO’s flare for destruction or to Aria Energy’s High BTU facility for treatment. Last year alone, landfill gas sold to Aria Energy generated more than $3.5 million in revenue for SWACO, where it becomes a renewable energy source for Central Ohioans.

SWACO currently has 100% gas collection coverage over regulatory applicable areas.

This public-private partnership captures and converts enough methane gas from the current Franklin County Sanitary Landfill to heat 13,386 homes in Central Ohio every year.

Read more about this project.

Green Economy Business Park

In late 2020, SWACO initiated the process to turn a 360-acre greenfield site near the landfill into a Green Economy Business Park. The park is moving ahead of the traditional model of commercial and industrial development to position the Columbus Region as a national leader in sustainability.

While still in the rezoning process, the new Green Economy Business Park will help attract, retain and grow companies in the Region with strong sustainability commitments. 

“Business attraction and job creation is often driven by new facilities.  The SWACO Green Business Park will allow innovation and growth built on the principle that sustainability is not only good for a community, but also good for a company’s bottom line,” said James Schimmer, Director of Franklin County’s Economic and Development Department. 

Not only will the new business park advance SWACO’s goal to leverage the waste stream for greater economic development, but the new park will also tap into a growing market for recycled materials and include sustainable materials management through clean sorting and processing. 

Once fully operational, the Green Economy Business Park is expected to yield between 2,000 and 3,500 manufacturing and technology jobs with good wages and create between $350 million to $500 million in capital investment. 

At the end of the day, the Green Economy Business Park will help increase waste diversion, leverage the enthusiasm around environmental protection and help to cement the Region as a national leader in sustainability. 

SWACO's Efforts Are Making Headlines. 

Recently, our economic development projects have been covered by local and national trade publications and featured during community engagements. 

SWACO's Big Steps Forward (Columbus Metropolitan Club Forum, May 2021)

SWACO Envisions a New Hub for the 'Circular Economy' in Grove City (Columbus Business First, October 2020) 

SWACO Planning Industrial Park Across from Grove City Landfill (ThisWeek Community News, February 2020)

SWACO Approves Construction of Solar Farm at Former Landfill Site (Waste Today, July 2020)