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For the first time ever, central Ohio’s waste diversion rate reaches 50%. That means residents and businesses in the region are keeping half of the waste they generate out of the landfill through recycling and other waste-diversion activities. That’s a significant achievement, especially considering the national waste diversion rate hovers around 35%.
SWACO announced the new rate this week to coincide with America Recycles Day on Nov. 15.
“We’re really proud of the people in Franklin County for recycling half of the waste they’re creating,” said Ty Marsh, executive director of SWACO. “That’s a huge accomplishment and our diversion rates continues to be one of the highest rates in the Midwest. Recycling has such a positive impact on both our environment and our economy and it’s clearly something Central Ohioans value.”
Franklin County’s recycling rate has been increasing slowly but steadily the past few years, thanks in large part to SWACO’s educational outreach, program initiatives and support services. SWACO hopes to reach a 75% waste diversion rate by 2032.
In support of that goal, SWACO has been involved in several studies the past year to find out what’s in Central Ohio’s waste stream and what can be done to recycle more and landfill less. A recent audit of 18,000 Columbus households, for example, found that over 70% of residents participate in recycling, but one in four are mistakenly putting items in their recycling containers that are not accepted in the curbside recycling program.
Another recently completed study, a Waste Characterization Study, examined the garbage at the landfill to find out what people are throwing away and what could have been recycled. Four times throughout the year, materials from waste-hauling trucks were manually sorted and weighed to determine their types, including plastics, yard waste, food waste and cardboard. Initial results show people are throwing away more food than previously thought. In fact, food waste and cardboard were the two highest categories of material being thrown away. Both items that could be better disposed of through recycling and composting. In total, nearly 76% of all of the material in the landfill has the potential to be recycled or composted.
America Recycles Day, a program of Keep America Beautiful, gives people the perfect opportunity to learn more about waste diversion and to increase their commitment to reducing, reusing and recycling. SWACO’s Recycle Right website offers information about and tips for recycling the right way, including a search tool that provides recycling options for items that might otherwise be thrown away.