Bexley could become the first city in Franklin County to develop a zero-waste program to encourage more recycling and send less waste to landfills if the city obtains funding to move forward.

Bexley could become the first city in Franklin County to develop a zero-waste program to encourage more recycling and send less waste to landfills if the city obtains funding to move forward.

Bexley Service Director Bill Dorman said the city plans to submit a grant application to the Solid Waste Authority of Central Ohio to fund the zero-waste program. The total cost to initiate the program is $36,000, and the city would have to match 25 percent of the total grant amount that SWACO awards, said Michael Greenberg, president of GT Environmental Inc., a Westerville-based firm that would administer the program for Bexley.

"What we're hoping is to become a model for the city (of Columbus) and the county," Greenberg said at Bexley City Council's March 29 meeting.

The only other city in Ohio that has adopted a zero-waste plan is Oberlin, Greenberg said.

"The reason we thought it would be a nice match with you here in Bexley is Oberlin has Oberlin College and you have Capital University," he said. "It's a nice fit. Populations are close."

Bexley's zero-waste plan would focus on reducing waste and increasing recycling among businesses, single-family households and multi-family dwellings, Greenberg said.

"It would be a phased-in approach over many, many years," he said.

Oberlin is working toward reducing waste by 90 percent over a 30-year period, Greenberg said. One strategy is to implement a "pay as you throw" system in which residents are charged based on how much refuse they throw away, while recycling is free, he said.

"Once (Oberlin) implemented that 'pay as you throw' (system), their numbers have gone up as far as recycling significantly -- 30, 40 percent," Greenberg said.

The first phase of Bexley's plan would be to form a "green team" that would analyze how to move forward with the program and draft a mission, goals and strategies, Greenberg said.

"We have to have citizen input and we have to have top management participation and agreement in making this happen," he said. "We have to have the backing of the council and the administration to make it work, and we have to involve the citizens in the process."

The process would involve evaluating Bexley's current solid waste disposal system, determining how much residents and businesses are currently paying, how many tons of waste are produced each year and devising short-term and long-term goals, Greenberg said.

The zero-waste program would give residents an opportunity to weigh in on recycling and other environmental issues, said Councilwoman Mary Gottesman, chairwoman of the Service Committee.

"I've been wanting to get resident input," she said.

The city should receive notice this spring or summer on SWACO's decision regarding its grant application, Greenberg said.