If you’re like most central Ohioans, you stop thinking about the waste you generate after you take your trash can to the curb. But that’s really where the process begins, and it takes hard work to make sure your waste is safely and properly disposed of at the Franklin County Sanitary Landfill.

The publicly owned landfill, which opened in 1984, is an engineering marvel that serves as a critical asset to Franklin County families, residents and businesses. In fact, all municipal solid waste – also known as your household trash – comes to the county landfill. SWACO owns and operates the landfill at 3851 London-Groveport Road in Grove City.

Each day, 400 to 500 truckloads of waste material are brought to the landfill. That’s more than a million tons of waste every year.

So what happens to all that waste when it reaches the landfill?

To keep up with central Ohio’s waste stream from our increasing population, the landfill is designed in “cells” – smaller segments that look like big holes in the ground, carefully constructed to keep waste materials separated from surrounding areas.

Every day, SWACO’s landfill-operations team carefully positions the material received in the landfill cell, compacts it to save valuable space and covers it.

SWACO takes many environmentally focused steps at the landfill, including the use of such materials as shredded automobile dashboards and seats to cover the waste material in order to conserve precious natural resources like soil, which traditionally has been used to cover waste.

And still, your waste’s journey isn’t complete. As material in the landfill decomposes, it produces gas composed mostly of methane and carbon dioxide, with small amounts of nitrogen and oxygen.

To further advance our sustainability efforts in the landfill, SWACO formed an innovative partnership in 2014 with Aria Energy to recycle these gases, further extracting resources from our garbage and turning them into a new product.

To do this, we rely on a collection-and-control system consisting of 280 gas-extraction wells and miles of underground piping. This system collects the landfill gas and sends what can be reused to Aria Energy to be processed into renewable resources and put back into production use.

The partnership has resulted in annual royalty payments of more than $6 million, which have been reinvested in SWACO’s waste-diversion programs and community services.

For central Ohioans, the landfill is much more than a final destination for the trash we generate each day. It’s also a valuable community resource that should be protected and used as efficiently as possible to guarantee its viability for generations to come.

SWACO holds regular educational tours of the Franklin County Sanitary Landfill to take the mystery out of the landfill and to educate residents about where waste ends up. Learn more about our landfill tours under the “Resources” tab at swaco.org.

The Franklin County Sanitary Landfill has a life expectancy of about 50 more years. But we could extend its life by keeping more material out of it in the first place. More than 70 percent of all materials that go to the landfill each year – or about $41 million worth of resources – could be recycled or reused.

That’s why SWACO emphasizes recycling and reusing our way to a cleaner community.

Ty Marsh is executive director of SWACO. Questions about SWACO’s operations can be directed to him at questions@swaco.org. His office provides this column to ThisWeek Community News.