City of Gahanna, SWACO: Feet on the Street aims to educate on recycling do's and don'ts

Marla K. Kuhlman
ThisWeek group

The city of Gahanna is partnering with the Solid Waste Authority of Central Ohio to bring Feet on the Street, a program of the Recycling Partnership, to improve the quality of recycling through education and feedback through June 22.

One of the biggest challenges with recycling is unintended contamination, according to Carrin Wester, Gahanna communications manager.

A Feet on the Street program to improve recycling quality was launched April 27 and continues through June 22 in Gahanna.

She said nonrecyclable items placed in a recycling cart could cause processing problems at the recycling facility, increase processing costs and jeopardize curbside recycling programs. 

SWACO reached out to Gahanna leaders to offer the program to raise awareness and improve recycling habits, according to Wester. 

She said the Recycling Partnership and SWACO are investing $40,000 to help Gahanna reduce recycling contamination and help residents recycle correctly.  

Tools used for the program include the following:

• A citywide mailer and survey were sent to residents earlier in early April.

• A recycling-cart audit, also known as cart-tagging, was started April 27 and continues through June 22, with only a few random routes that are tagged. If nonrecyclable items are in the cart, the cart will not be collected and an “Oops” tag will be affixed to the cart, letting the resident know what nonrecyclable material was placed in the cart. 

Partners involved in making the program feasible were the Recycling Partnership, SWACO, Rumpke, the city of Gahanna, Good Land, the Ohio State University and the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency. 

The Feet on the Street program works by giving residents instant feedback on what is and is not recyclable, Wester said. 

She said one of the most common noncompliant items found in recycling carts are plastic bags, particularly bagged recyclables. 

A program has been launched in Gahanna to improve the quality of recycling.

Items that can be recycled include paper and cardboard, plastic bottles and jugs; glass bottles, metal cans and rinsed cartons with lids removed.

The partnership has implemented this program in communities across the country, with some communities seeing a 57% decrease of nonrecyclables in recycling and a 27% increase in the overall capture of quality recyclables, according to literature from the organization.  

“As a community that supports green initiatives and sustainability, the Feet on the Street program is an excellent opportunity to get the word out on what is recyclable,” said Grant Crawford, Gahanna's director of public services and engineering. “This program's success will impact our community by having more high-quality recycling and diverting it from the landfill.”

Wester said Gahanna had a diversion rate of 38%, including recycling at 16% and yard waste at 22%, for 2020. She said Rumpke reported Gahanna’s recycling set-out rate at 90%.

“Franklin County’s rate of recycling stands at 50%, meaning residents and businesses recycle half of all the waste they create, which is better than the national average,” said Ty Marsh, SWACO’s executive director. “We appreciate the leadership of the city of Gahanna to prioritize sustainability, not just during Earth Month but every day. Together, we can learn to recycle right and ensure our efforts make a difference for our region’s environment, economy and community.”

Identifying best practices for sustainability is an ongoing effort in Gahanna, according to Mayor Laurie Jadwin.

“Our residents have consistently embraced sustainability initiatives, as evidenced by our achievement in reaching ‘Silver’ status as part of MORPC’s (Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission) Sustainable2050 program, our designation as a ‘Tree City USA,’ the upcoming addition of electric-vehicle charging stations throughout the city and the upcoming opening of a new Level 1 Arboretum at Creekside Park,” she said. “We are excited to pursue this new partnership with SWACO as we strive to raise recycling awareness and generate an overall positive impact on our community’s sustainability practices.”  

For more about the Recycling Partnership, go to the nonprofit’s website

mkuhlman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekMarla