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In 2017, food waste comprised about 12.8 percent, or 143,616 tons, of the material landfilled by Franklin County businesses and residents. That same year, an estimated 10,288 tons of food waste was diverted from the landfill, resulting in a food waste diversion rate of just 7.2 percent.Clearly, there’s plenty of opportunity to reduce the amount of food waste being landfilled. That’s why SWACO is launching the Central Ohio Food Waste Initiative. The Initiative aims to reduce food waste and leverage it as a resource to benefit our region. Consistent with the food waste hierarchy, the Initiative will be focusing on preventing food waste, recovering edible food waste for redistribution to people, and recycling food waste through agriculture uses such as composting.To launch this effort, SWACO staff will be working with Resource Recycling Systems, a recycling and composting consultant that developed a national roadmap for reducing food waste, and Biehl Consultancy to help facilitate public and stakeholder group meetings.During the initial phase of the initiative, which we’ll launch in September, we will engage groups and organizations, asking them to work together to identify and address opportunities and challenges and to develop a Food Waste Action Plan that will serve as a roadmap for achieving common goals. We anticipate having the plan complete by the first quarter of 2019. During this time, we will also be conducting a feasibility study on composting food waste generated within the region. “Food waste is a pinnacle issue that effects our economy, our environment, and our society”, said Kyle O’Keefe, director of innovation and programs. “This initiative will help to unify efforts and focus resources for combating food waste while creating opportunities to address hunger and improve the resiliency of our local food systems”. SWACO’s food waste initiative will complement Columbus’ and Franklin County’s “Local Food Action Plan,” a community effort to create a more sustainable local food system. Preventing food-related waste is one of the plan’s four areas of focus.