Recycling and building a more circular economy takes a team effort. Here's how it works - residents, businesses and event organizers place items accepted for recycling into recycling containers. MRF’s properly sort the recyclables. Manufacturers purchase these commodities for use as raw materials in order to create recycled-content products. Recyclables are bought and sold just like raw materials so prices go up and down depending on supply and demand in the United States and globally. And, of course, you and I do our part to purchase materials made from recycled-content.
This is how a circular economy works.
The circular economy is an aspirational framework organizations and businesses may use to re-think and re-design their processes and products to have a positive impact on society and the environment we depend on. With creativity and innovation, our society can start to transition from a 'take-make-waste' society to a more circular economy recognizing the true value of natural resources.
To learn more check out this website or watch this short video.
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Mix all accepted items together - no separation required. Container labels don’t need removed but these materials should be free of food and liquid. Plastic bottles should be crushed and have the caps on. Cardboard boxes should always be flattened.
The following items are not currently accepted through Franklin County’s recycling program.Plastic: Not all #5’s are accepted. No clamshell containers, plastic party cups or take out food containers. Polystyrene foam or "Styrofoam" egg cartons, plates, cups, etc.Glass: Ceramics, window or drinking glass, light bulbs and any other glass not in the shape of a bottle or jar.Paper: Cups (including coffee cups), plates, egg cartons, tissues, etc. Receipts are not accepted because most are coated with plastics.Drink Pouches: Made of or lined with foil and plastic.Metals: Coat hangers, steel scraps and any other metal not in the shape of a container. Foil is not accepted. Aluminum pie pans, lids, or trays are not accepted.
Plastic bags can easily get caught in recycling sorting machine gears. Simply place loose recyclables directly into your curbside recycling bin or a drop-off bin. Plastic bags are 100% recyclable if done correctly. Please be sure to recycle your plastic bags at a Bring Me Back location near you. For a map of locations and more information about this program, click here.
Cardboard boxes take up a lot of space. Breaking them down, or flattening them before placing them in the curbside or drop off container saves space and creates additional capacity to recycle even more items.
Call your community refuse department for information about pick-up schedules, how to request a new bin, and billing.
SWACO provides multiple drop-off recycling locations throughout Franklin County for those who don't have curbside recycling or fill up their bins before pick-up. The updated list is available at Recycling Drop-Off Locations. In 2016, over 8,500 tons of recyclable material was diverted from the Franklin County Sanitary Landfill through the Drop-Off program.
In Franklin County, most of the single stream recyclables are processed at Rumpke’s Columbus Material Recovery Facility (MRF), located near the Ohio State Fairgrounds. At the Rumpke MRF, co-mingled recyclables are sorted through mechanical and people power into their material types. Materials like plastic bottles and aluminum cans are then compressed into cubes called bales, and material types like glass are collected in large dumpsters. These commodities are sold to companies that process that material so new products can be made from recycled content.
Making products from recycled content helps reduce the amount of pollution and habitat destruction generated by creating goods from virgin materials. It’s important to remember that recycling takes a team effort.
Check out this short video for an overview of how recycling turns waste into resources.
In Franklin County, when recyclables are collected from your curb or a drop-off box, they are taken to a Materials Recovery Facility (MRF). At the MRF, people and mechanical power are used to sort out the recyclables into different categories. A series of blowers/ fans, lasers, magnetics, and other technologies are used to sort each material into bales. Glass isn't baled, instead it is typically crushed and collected in a large dumpster which is sold to companies who melt down the glass and create new bottles and other products.
Check out this short video or virtual tour for a deeper dive:
Virtual MRF Tour
According to data released by SWACO in 2019, Franklin County’s recycling and composting rate, known as a diversion rate, is 50% while the national average is only 34%. By working together as a community, we are preserving natural resources while helping to create jobs and support local industry.
Recycling creates a more resilient economy for local businesses and residents, provides opportunities for innovation and creates a brighter, safer future for all of us, including our kids.
Recycling conserves natural resources like timber and minerals and reduces the amount of energy required to create goods. More efficient processes help to also reduce greenhouse gas emissions which contribute to adverse health impacts from air pollution and human-caused climate change.
Recycling also creates well-paying jobs in recycling and manufacturing industries.
In 2016, over 70% of landfilled materials in Franklin County could have been recycled and had a potential value of $41 million. On average, 500-600 full semi-trucks of materials are landfilled a day in Franklin County with over half of this coming from the commercial sector (businesses and multi-family housing). That means almost 400 full trucks worth of material could have been recycled.
Recycling has become part of the culture in Franklin County. People care about preserving natural resources and creating local jobs. While wanting to recycle everything is admirable, 'wish-cycling' can negatively impact the amount of materials you actually recycle.Sorting facilities are highly engineered to deal with certain material types, and when other goods are introduced into the system many things can go wrong. The first step of this sorting process requires people to sort out contamination. The cleaner the material is of potentially dangerous or unaccepted items, the safer the workers are and the less likely the machines are to get jammed. Metal hangers, hoses, and plastic bags can easily get caught in machine gears and lead to a work stoppage or costly repair. Please be sure to recycle your plastic bags at a Bring Me Back location near you to keep the recycling process running smoothly. Likewise, putting batteries into the recycling can also creates a dangerous working environment for employees because batteries can cause fires in these facilities. Please find a location near you to recycle your batteries using our Recycling and Reuse Search Tool. Items that aren't accepted for recycling but are placed into the recycling bin anyway, just take a long detour to the landfill. These materials are not recycled if they aren't listed as accepted.
Of course, there are many ways to reuse, recycle, and safely dispose of other items that aren't accepted in your residential program. Questions about what to do with old electronics, chemicals, paint, batteries, and more? Use SWACO's Reuse and Recycling Search Tool to help you quickly find a location near you accepting a wide range of items from tires to bicycles!
Dedicated loads of Yard Waste are banned from SWACO’s Franklin County Landfill by state law. Try backyard composting! A compost pile or bin is a great way to recycle yard waste and enhance your garden. Many Franklin County communities also offer curbside yard waste collection services. Call your local government offices to determine whether your community offers this service. Residents in Franklin County may also take leaves, grass and brush to a compost facility.
For more information, visit the
Plastic bags are not accepted in curbside or drop-off recycling bins. In order for the recycling industry to continue to thrive, the materials collected need to closely align with what the sorting facility can actually handle. Plastic bags are big problems for our local recycling facility because bags can easily get caught in machine gears. Please be sure to recycle your plastic bags at a Bring Me Back location near you to keep the recycling process running smoothly. For a map of locations and more information about this program, click here.
As of January 2021, Some #5 plastics are accepted through the curbside and drop off programs. The only #5 plastics accepted in these programs are tubs, yogurt and fruit cups. These programs also accepted plastics that are bottle-shape such as laundry detergent jugs, water bottles and milk and juice jugs. All other plastics are not accepted and should be avoided or reused.
Buying recycled content goods helps support this industry. Look for products like paper (toilet paper, paper towels) and plastic goods that say 'Made from recycled content'. Typically, products have a recycling symbol with a percentage, indicating the portion of the product that's made from recycled content.
Post-consumer recycled content indicates the product is made from goods that were recycled after they were used. Compared to being made from recycled scrap at a manufacturing facility or another pre-consumer scrap.
There are seven types of consumer plastic or resin- each has unique characteristics. A recycling symbol with or without a number doesn't necessarily indicate that an item is accepted for recycling. The numbers on plastic are an identification code communicating what type of plastic the item is made from. In Franklin County, the number of a plastic doesn't matter. You only need to look at the shape of a container to know if you can put it in your bin. As long as the plastic is a bottleneck or jug shape then it's accepted. Say goodbye to the days you had to read that tiny number!
Soft paper products are usually made from a high percentage of recycled paper. Each time natural fibers are recycled, they become shorter and shorter. After 5-7 times through the recycling process, paper fibers are too short to be recycled again- however- these fibers are the perfect length for rapid composting! Compost your soft paper products or avoid them entirely with reusable options. Think about it- for all of modern human history until recently people used cloth for cleaning up their messes and wiping their hands.
To ensure cups holding liquid don't get soggy, they are fused with polyethylene, a type of plastic. Since the cup is made of multiple layers of material, separating these materials isn't possible in most standard recycling facilities. However, since there are advanced and specifically designed facilities in the world capable of recycling this material, companies creating the cups can claim they are 'recyclable'. This is why you may see claims of recycling acceptance on a cup, but don't be fooled! In Franklin County, coffee cups are not accepted for recycling. The good thing is, you don't have to contribute to the problem of coffee cups taking up space in the local landfill. Bring your own reusable cup or ask for a reusable mug if you will be enjoying your beverage at your favorite coffee spot! Many stores even give discounts for bringing your own mug- and they are typically spill-proof!
Expanded polystyrene (EPS), commonly called 'Styrofoam', is recyclable in some communities, but is not currently accepted anywhere in Franklin County. Used Styrofoam cups cannot be easily recycled into new cups like aluminum cans or glass bottles, and there isn't a market for this type of material locally. Additionally, Styrofoam isn't very economical to transport because it is mostly made of air- so a semi-truck full of cups isn't actually a large weight of material. Recycling, like all industries in the modern economy, relies on supply and demand. What can you do to combat Styrofoam waste? Encourage businesses using this material to opt for greener alternatives and bring your own container for leftovers or cup for coffee.
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If your pizza boxes are not heavily contaminated with grease, they can be recycled. If grease has soaked the cardboard, we request this part of the box be ripped off and the rest may be recycled. Grease from pizza boxes cause problems during the pulping process used to recycle paper fibers. Specifically, oil from the grease is very difficult to remove and inhibits the production of high quality paper products. As long as the cardboard isn't soaked with grease, please recycle this valuable material!
SWACO funds the Environmental Crimes Task Force of Central Ohio program which allows citizens to report illegal dumping and littering in Franklin County. For more information, visit the
Since steel and aluminum cans are accepted for recycling, you may assume tossing an old screw or worn out pot into the curbside bin wouldn't be a problem. However, metals not shaped like cans can easily get into other streams (I.e. paper, glass) and then contaminate that load because the sorting facility wasn't designed to handle irregularly shaped metals. You can take your scrap metals to local facilities, or consider donation if the item you are trying to dispose of is still in usable condition. If you have metal screw top caps, you can put these into a can and crush the top of the can, containing the metal.
Check out our Reuse and Recycling Search Tool to find locations for where to recycle or donate your item in question.
Cartons come in two major packaging types: shelf-stable (or aseptic like a soup broth container) and refrigerated (gable-top like a milk carton). All cartons are made mostly of paper but gable-top cartons have additional plastic layers and shelf-stable cartons contain additional layers of plastic and aluminum. Both broth, juice, milk and other similarily shaped carts are accepted for recycling. You don't need to compress the container, but please pour out all the liquid and remove lids/ straws. The Carton Council was formed in 2009 by businesses who use cartons with the goal of increasing carton recycling. The Council was able to increase local collection programs by helping to develop markets for these materials. It's important to note, ice cream and egg cartons are not accepted.
Learn more about the carton recycling process from the Carton Council.
Five 2-liter PETE bottles can make one square foot of polyester carpet and 35% of this type of carpet in the US is made from recycled plastic! 5 2-liter bottles can also make an XL t-shirt! The possibilities don't stop there though- this material can also be used as fiberfill in a winter jacket or sleeping bag. In fact, many items made from plastic can be made from recycled plastic including car bumpers, sails for boats, parts for cars, chairs, and more bottles.
Aluminum cans are recycled into new cans as well as car parts, window frames, wire, tubing and electronics. Aluminum placed in your recycling bin is more valuable than any other item in the recycling stream because it can be recycled endlessly without the material breaking down or decreasing in quality. Recycling one cans saves enough energy to power a tv for 2 hours! Why? Creating goods from recycled content saves energy because it prevents the mining, transportation, and processing of virgin materials to make the item. Each step of the process extracting and processing virgin materials requires energy consumption which can be avoided by utilizing recycled content. According to the Aluminum Association, nearly 75 percent of all aluminum produced in the U.S. is still in use today.
Glass can be endlessly recycled without decreasing quality. According to the Glass Recycling Association, 33% of new glass container contain recycled glass and 60% of recycled glass is used for new containers or insulation. The Glass Packaging Institute (GPI) reports, "Over a ton of natural resources are conserved for every ton of glass recycled, including 1,300 pounds of sand, 410 pounds of soda ash, 380 pounds of limestone, and 160 pounds of feldspar". Additionally, according to GPI for every 6 tons of recycled glass, a ton of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas contributing to climate change, is reduced.
According to the Carton Council, approximately 30 cartons can create a single 2’x2’ ceiling tile, while about 400 cartons make up a wallboard. Learn more about the carton recycling process from the Carton Council.
Some trucks or custodian carts have divided sections for recycling and trash. However, if recycling carts are too contaminated (non-recyclable items mixed with acceptable items), then 'recycling' becomes destined for the landfill. This is one of the reasons understanding what's accepted for recycling is so important! Recycling is subject to the old adage- one apple can ruin the bunch.
The Sanitary Landfill is regulated by the Ohio EPA and the landfill is currently not permitted to recycle on location. Additionally, sorting recyclable materials out of mixed materials ("trash") produces materials that are difficult to sell on the commodity market. The recycling industry is volatile and it's already very difficult to run a successful recycling operation, finding a buyer in the region who will accept highly contaminated materials for recycling is difficult to manage successfully.
The best economic and environmental option is for residents, students, and businesses to reduce, reuse, and recycle while minimizing how much they landfill.