Spring is here, and residents across central Ohio are starting to mow, clip and weed their ways to green, healthy lawns and colorful gardens.

Their hard work yields more than beautiful yards, however. It also generates lots of yard waste.

Yard waste, which includes organic materials such as leaves, grass clippings and small branches, is not accepted at the Franklin County Sanitary Landfill. It takes up valuable space and can be put to a better use by composting it.

Fortunately, most central Ohio communities provide curbside collection of yard waste to residents. For residents who don’t have access to regular yard-waste pickup, a number of central Ohio businesses accept yard waste free of charge. The yard waste collected at these drop-off sites is composted and resold as nourishing soil and mulch.

You can learn about these programs on our website at SWACO.org/200/yard-waste.

Food waste is also a growing challenge in central Ohio. Food waste – the uneaten, spoiled or otherwise wasted food that is thrown in the garbage rather than used – makes up about 13 percent of the waste in our landfill and has significant effects on our environment, economy and society. We estimate that 192 million meals end up in the landfill every year in central Ohio.

That’s staggering when you consider a report conducted by the Mid-Ohio Foodbank documented that 69 million meals are missed every year by residents who go hungry.

SWACO wants to help central Ohio reduce food waste and increase efforts to divert organic materials – including food and yard waste – from our landfill.

To this end, SWACO formed the Central Ohio Food Waste Initiative in 2018. This group of more than 60 public and private organizations was tasked with collaboratively developing a Food Waste Action Plan with the goal of cutting our region’s food waste in half by 2030.

The action plan, which will be released this month, focuses on three priorities: preventing food waste, rescuing edible food waste and recycling food waste.

The action plan includes 19 solution areas, many of which are currently being developed, including a consumer-focused education campaign, as well as collaborative food-waste-reduction programs with local schools. Look for the Food Waste Action Plan at cofwi.com.

In the meantime, many actions can help reduce food waste.

For example, SWACO partners with the Franklin Soil and Water Conservation District to offer educational presentations and workshops on how to properly create a backyard-composting program. Participants are then eligible for a $50 rebate for purchasing composting bins or tumblers.

Besides composting, as you make your weekly grocery list, base it on what you already have and purchase only what you need. You can also organize your refrigerator so that older items are near the front, where they are less likely to be forgotten about before they spoil.

Go to cofwi.com to access a variety of programs and services that help individuals, families and businesses start reducing and recycling food waste.

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