New research available from the Solid Waste Authority of Central Ohio (SWACO) shows Central Ohio residents support existing diversion goals, view recycling and composting as important in their community, and desire more opportunities to reduce their reliance on the county landfill.
In February 2022, SWACO, working with Columbus-based EMC Research, conducted a representative sample survey of 1,300 Franklin County residents inquiring about their attitudes and behaviors towards reducing waste and gathering opinions on local recycling efforts. Ninety-two percent (92%) of residents reported that they believe recycling reflects well on their community and that cities and governments should be promoting recycling and composting. Eighty-nine percent (89%) of residents support Central Ohio’s efforts to reach 75% diversion by 2032 and an additional eighty-two percent (82%) believe that recycling and reducing waste can help reduce the impacts of climate change on their community.
Central Ohioans have a strong desire to be able to further reduce their reliance on the landfill. “Reducing waste, recycling, and using our resources more efficiently have become part of the fabric of our community and these results affirm that residents value their ability to act sustainably,” said Kyle O’Keefe, Director of Innovation and Programs for SWACO.
Furthermore, the majority of residents (87%) find it to be convenient and easy to recycle, with sixty-six percent (66%) of households reporting that they make above average efforts to do so. However, when asked about barriers to recycling – seventy-four percent (74%) of residents reported confusion about keeping track of what items are accepted for recycling.
Franklin County’s residential recycling program has changed over the last couple of years, expanding to accept more materials and placing stronger emphasis on education about the correct way to recycle. To help improve recycling confidence, SWACO has been working with local communities to deploy the Recycle Right, Make A Difference campaign which has resulted in documented improvements in recycling behaviors.
When asked about the specific issue of food waste – the single largest source of material in the waste stream – eighty-three percent (83%) of Central Ohioans are concerned about the amount of food being wasted in our community and the vast majority (78%) support a curbside food waste collection program for composting.
In recent years, SWACO has launched a collaborative food waste initiative to help combat food waste throughout the region which has led to the development of new services and programs such as publicly available drop-offs for food scraps and the launching of the Save More Than Food campaign. SWACO is currently working with regional communities to explore the development of new composting infrastructure that would help to enhance food waste diversion efforts and enable curbside collection programs.
Residents also expressed a strong desire to see the private sector prioritize sustainability with seventy-three percent (73%) of residents reporting a greater likelihood to shop at businesses that use environmentally friendly products and recycle or compost their waste, while seventy-eight percent (78%) of residents stated they believe businesses should be required to offer recycling to customers and employees, and an additional eighty percent (80%) desire to see recycling or composting efforts started or improved in their place of work or school.
“Supporting the private sector to strengthen their waste reduction and diversion efforts remains one of the biggest opportunities for our region. More and more companies recognize that sustainability and reducing waste have to be a core part of their business, and we’re here to help them,” said O’Keefe. In the upcoming months SWACO will be launching new programs and funding to help businesses establish best practices for recycling and waste reduction.
Reaching the region’s diversion goals is possible only through collaboration between residents, business owners and both the public and private sectors, so data collected through the public opinion poll is critical to better understanding the barriers and opportunities to move forward.
While, the Franklin County Sanitary Landfill, owned by SWACO, receives more than a million tons of material every year, the vast majority (76%) of those items have the potential to be diverted either through programs existing today or with the introduction of new infrastructure and programs for which SWACO is already advancing plans. To learn more about these efforts visit swaco.org.
Download a copy of the 2022 Public Opinion Poll Research results.