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It’s no mystery that 2020 had a profound impact on everyone in our community. Lifestyle changes forced upon us as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic impacted every part of our lives – even our waste stream. From increased cardboard shipping boxes arriving on doorsteps, to the arrival of millions of doses of vaccines in our community packaged in expanded polystyrene, the pandemic made its mark on Central Ohio in often unseen ways.
This week, SWACO launched its 2020 Community Impact Report which details how seismic changes in our daily lives ultimately impacted the waste stream last year, while highlighting the accomplishments made across Franklin County to reduce waste, improve recycling and increase composting. The report also celebrates our regional partners who are actively working to cut food waste in half, and provides an overview of SWACO’s plans to leverage the waste stream to create economic opportunities that benefit businesses and residents in Central Ohio.
A few highlights from the 2020 report:
Reducing food waste
Reducing food waste is one of the best opportunities to increase the redirection of materials away from the Franklin County landfill and achieve a 75 percent diversion goal.
SWACO and members of the Central Ohio Food Waste Initiative spent much of 2020 implementing a number of food waste solutions identified in the Food Waste Action Plan, including launching resources for schools and a new public-facing consumer education campaign, as well as supporting local restaurants throughout the pandemic.
SWACO also supported several new or expanded community drop-off composting locations in Dublin, Westerville, Upper Arlington and Hilliard. Together, these cities have now diverted more than 256,000 pounds of food waste. The cities of Grove City and Grandview Heights are also in the process of launching composting programs with support from SWACO.
Read more about how we’re fostering regional collaboration to cut food waste in half over the next 10 years.
SWACO’s waste hauling partners saw a 30 percent increase in waste set out for pick up each week in those first early months of the pandemic, yet recycling haulers didn’t experience the same increases. Many residents don’t know that more than 75 percent of Franklin County’s landfill material has the potential to be reused, recycled or composted, instead of simply being landfilled – so there’s work to be done!
In response, throughout the year, the team at SWACO worked with dozens of communities and businesses to improve recycling programs.
The city of Canal Winchester used learnings from SWACO’s consortium program to implement a curbside recycling program for the first time. The result? Every city in Franklin County now offers residents a convenient curbside recycling program.
In Whitehall, residents transitioned to a volume-based trash collection program that provides a citywide incentive to reduce their trash bill by recycling more. And, in Pleasant Township, 2,000 households transitioned from 16-gallon recycling bins to larger, more convenient 64-gallon carts. Since this change, the number of homes putting out recycling each week has soared to 70 percent, a 30 percent increase over previous rates.
SWACO also worked with the cities of Dublin and New Albany and Plain and Washington Townships to distribute recycling education resources to thousands of households to help residents become better, more confident recyclers.
Read more about how these communities are reducing waste and improving recycling.
And, while many schools, restaurants and businesses were closed last year as a result of the pandemic, SWACO spent the year providing guidance for more sustainable ways to function after re-openings and offering businesses information on how to implement best practices for reducing waste and improving recycling and composting.
Leveraging the waste stream for greater economic opportunity
Beyond the important job of providing technical advice and supporting the waste and recycling needs of our commercial partners, SWACO works with many partners to innovate the waste stream — both to capture even more materials and to put them to work in the local economy by supporting the hundreds of businesses who rely on recyclables for their operations and the thousands of people they employ.
Together, these businesses generate $1.3 billion in revenue. In fact, 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. This is a growing sector of the economy that must be nurtured. Get to know more about these Ohio businesses here.
To expand on these efforts, last year, SWACO formed new partnerships with Columbus Solar Park and Rev1 Ventures, resulting in exciting new projects and opportunities for entrepreneurs in the sustainability space.
Learn more about our economic development strategy.
A community that’s made a difference
Even though 2020 was an unprecedented year filled with challenges, Central Ohioans came together to make a difference.
It’s never been easier to make a difference for our environment, economy and community. To learn more about the collective impact that was made in 2020, please visit the interactive, online report at swacoimpactreport.org.