In 2019, the Solid Waste Authority of Central Ohio (SWACO) conducted a waste audit, which revealed that by weight, food waste tops the list of what is discarded (15%), followed by corrugated cardboard (10%), and other compostable items and fiber, including paper towels and napkins (8%). Stated SWACO when it released the audit, “nearly a million pounds of food waste arrives at the Franklin County Sanitary Landfill every day. Yet, 69 million meals are missed every year by people in our community.”
To address the situation, a number of community grants awarded by SWACO in 2020 went to food recovery and food waste recycling. For example, Columbus Public Health received $5,550 to create a food waste donation guide for businesses, like restaurants, which serve food in Columbus and Franklin County. The guide aligns with the SWACO-led Central Ohio Food Waste Initiative collaborative and seeks to provide 10,000 retail food businesses with clear, consistent and accessible guidance on donating food. Food Rescue US received $16,500 to enhance an app to allow food donors to register available food, social service agencies to communicate their food and delivery needs, and volunteers to sign up to assist with rescuing and redistributing excess food. SWACO will also fund the creation of a new public education campaign to increase awareness and use of the app.
Four central Ohio cities received grant funds to establish food scrap drop-off sites for residents:
- Dublin: $6,760 to set up a drop-off location that is expected to serve up to 500 Dublin households and divert approximately 78,000 lbs/year of food waste from disposal
- Westerville: $9,240 to establish 2 drop-off locations
- Upper Arlington: $9,740 to increase the number of food waste drop-off locations from 2 to a maximum of 5. Funding also provides for up to 9 additional collection containers following strong participation among residents in the 2019 program, during which 13,000 lbs of food waste were collected in four months (top photo is of Upper Arlington drop-off program)
- Hilliard: $9,300 to establish 1 to 2 drop-off locations for Hilliard residents
The Dublin food scrap drop-off site opened in August, and will run as a pilot for 6 months to evaluate household participation and logistics. The first 500 residents to register received a free bucket with a compostable liner at the service center, where the drop-off site is located. According to the city, 200 people signed up the first day the program was available, and since then, the 500 buckets have been distributed. Any type of bucket can be used by households. GoZero, an organics collection company in central Ohio, services the Dublin and Upper Arlington drop-off sites.