Some residents were left in the lurch July 1 when Solid Waste Authority of Central Ohio officials ended a decade-long relationship with Columbus City Schools that provided public access to drop off recycling containers.
The move was in response to a drastic reduction in the use of the school-site containers and the resulting dramatic increase in the cost of the program, said Kyle O'Keefe, innovation and programs director for SWACO.
The decision left the Northland neighborhood in something of a recycling desert, said William Logan, coordinator of the Northland Community Council's code task force.
"As we understand it right now, looking at SWACO's website, there simply are no remaining public-access bins in all of Northland," he said.
Clintonville Area Commission member David Vottero said his neighborhood, too, lost a lot of recycling potential, not only from the removal of bins from schools but also the loss of 11 containers near the Indianola Plaza that were taken away at the request of the property owner in preparation for major redevelopment.
"By my simple math, in the past 45 days, Clintonville, a community of 30,000 residents, has gone from 26 public recycling containers down to two public recycling containers," Vottero wrote in an email.
In an interview, the CAC District 1 representative expressed disappointment that alternative sites for public recycling containers weren't already lined up when SWACO pulled the plug on the school program.
"I'm concerned SWACO wasn't out in front of this problem," Vottero said.
The publicly accessible recycling bins had been located at neighborhood schools since 2007, said Emmanuel V. Remy, president of the Northland Community Council. That was before the introduction of residential curbside recycling in Columbus. Of 117 school recycling sites, Remy added, only a dozen were heavily used, and many locations had problems with illegal dumping.
The introduction in 2012 of curbside recycling sounded the death knell for the school program, O'Keefe said.
In an announcement sent out by SWACO in mid-June, the innovation and programs director noted the amount of recycling at the school drop-off sites went from 16,443 tons in 2011 to 8,574 last year.
"Due to the reduced volume, increased contamination and new Material Recovery Facility recycling fees, the costs for operating the program on a per-ton basis have also increased in recent years," O'Keefe wrote. "In 2011, the cost per ton to operate the program was $41.21, and in 2016 the cost per ton was $94."
The loss of school sites for recycling will be a hardship on people who live in apartments and those who generate more material in two weeks than can be accommodated by the curbside bins, Logan said.
"The problem just compounds itself when you eliminate access," he said. "This stuff is going to get dumped behind businesses or around business bins. That's what happened before we had a recycling program.
"People will find a place to get rid of their junk."
"We are looking at additional locations where there are higher demand points," O'Keefe said. "Unfortunately, it's not as easy as finding a location and placing containers there. We have to work with property owners and our partners, like the city of Columbus. That takes a little bit of time to work through."
"I think this was a problem for the community that was foreseeable," Vottero wrote in an email. "I'm disappointed that SWACO was unable to be proactive in addressing the problem."